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Aruelo versus Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 107852

October 20, 1993

Danilo Gatchalian won over rival candidate Gregorio Aruelo Jr. for the the Office of the Vice
Mayor in the 1992 election of Balagtas, Province of Bulacan. Losing candidate Aruelo filed before
the Commission on Election seeking the nullification of Gatchalian's proclamation on the ground
of fraudulent alteration and tampering of votes in the tally sheets and the election returns. The
same action was instituted before the Regional Trial Court. Gatchalian, instead of giving answer
to petition, filed for a Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that petition has already prescribed, there
was a pending case before the COMELEC and said petitioner failed to pay the prescribed filing
fees and cash deposit on the petition. Meanwhile COMELEC denied the petition for non-
compliance of the required evidence and documents in support of the petition to annul the
proclamation of the winning candidate. Gatchalian submitted before the trial court his Answer with
Counter-Protest and Counterclaim. Petitioner refutes this alleging that the filing for counterclaim
has already prescribed.

Whether the Court of Appeals exercise grave abuse of discretion in granting that the answer and
counter-claim of Gatchalian was timely filed and to continue the proceedings.

The contention of petitioner is not tenable. The Court did not find grave abuse of discretion on the
part of the Court of Appeals. Petitioner filed the election protest, which is a civil case, with the
Regional Trial Court, whose proceedings are governed by the Revised Rules of Court. COMELEC
cannot adopt a rule prohibiting the filing of certain pleadings in the regular courts. The power to
promulgate rules concerning pleadings, practice and procedure in all courts is vested on the
Supreme Court. The instant case is different from a pre-proclamation controversy which the law
expressly mandates to be resolved in a summary proceeding. Pre-proclamation controversies
should be summarily decided, consistent with the legislators' desire that the canvass of the votes
and the proclamation of the winning candidate be done with dispatch and without unnecessary
delay. Questions as those involving the appreciation of the votes and the conduct of the balloting,
which require more deliberate and necessarily longer consideration, are left for examination in the
corresponding election protest. An election protest does not merely concern the personal interests
of rival candidates for an office. Over and above the desire of the candidates to win, is the deep
public interest to determine the true choice of the people. For this reason, it is a well-established
principle that laws governing election protests must be liberally construed to the end that the
popular will, expressed in the election of public officers, will not, by purely technical reasons, be