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BAQUIT UNDA vs.

COMELEC and ACMAD RANGIRIS


-petition for certiorari

FACTS:
1. Hadji Minandang Guiling was proclaimed mayor of Masiu following the 1988 local elections. Petitioner Baquit Unda
was proclaimed vice-mayor of the same municipality. They took their oaths and commenced office.
2. Respondent Hadji Acmad Ditangongan Rangiris, rival mayoral candidate of Guiling, filed a petition with the COMELEC
questioning Guiling’s proclamation. COMELEC dismissed the petition without prejudice to filing an election protest.
3. Subsequent thereto, Mayor Guiling passed away. Unda then took his oath of office as mayor and commenced office.
4. Respondent filed an election protest against Guiling with the RTC of Lanao del Sur; by this time Mayor Guiling was
already dead for a month. The protest was then brought to the COMELEC on certiorari.
5. COMELEC’s decisions on the three certiorari petitions:
- 1st: ordered RTC to admit Unda’s motion for interventionand proceed with trial
- 2nd: ordered RTC to proceed with hearing on defenses raised by Unda
- 3rd (Order subject of this petition): ordered RTC to proceed with trial on the ground that the death of the
protestee (Mayor Guiling) does not divest the court of jurisdiction over the election protest
6. Arguments
PETITIONER Unda (intervenor-now Mayor) RESPONDENT Rangiris (protester)
a. there is no law allowing a deeased person to be a. ruling in Vda de Mesa vs. Mencias
sued as a party defendant, or a protestee in an
election contest

b. COMELEC misapplied Vda de De Mesa vs


Mencias which impliedly suggested that the
procedure is to have the case dismissed without
prejudice to the refiling of the case against the
proper protestee; overlooks time element which
is the essence of and constitutes a major
consideration in this case

ISSUE: Does the court retain jurisdiction over an election protest filed against a protestee who died prior to the filing
thereof?

SC: Yes. An election case, unlike an ordinary action, is imbued with public interest since it involves not only the
adjudication of the private interests of rival candidates but also the paramount need of dispelling the uncertainty which
beclouds the real choice of the electorate with respect to who shall discharge the prerogatives of the office within their
gift. 5 Moreover, it is neither fair nor just to keep in office for an uncertain period one whose right to it is under suspicion.
It is imperative that his claim be immediately cleared not only for the benefit of the winner but for the sake of public
interest, which can only be achieved by brushing aside technicalities of procedure which protract and delay the trial of an
ordinary action.
1. General rule: statues providing for election contests are liberally construed to the end that the will of the people
in the choice of public officers may not be defeated by mere technical objections. To that end, immaterial defects
in pleadings should be disregarded and necessary and proper amendments should be allowed as promptly as
possible.
2. General rule: amendments to pleadings may be permitted by the Court even for the first time on appeal in order
to substitute the name of the real party in interest, provided that such an amendment would not involve a change
in the cause of action or result in in undue prejudice to the adverse party; as long as there is justice done upon
the merits.
3. The election protest filed by Rangiris can and ought to be amended by striking out the name of deceased Mayor
Guiling (as protestee) and substituting petitioner Unda (now Mayor). No undue substantial prejudice to Rangiris.
4. Re Vda de Mesa vs. Mencias, as invoked by respondent Rangiris: not the same factual situation with the present
case:
- Protestee was duly served with summons and died during pendency of the election protest or appeal; this is
not the case at bar. Here, Guiling already dead at the time of the filing of the election protest. The Court
cannot allow public interest to be fettered by procedural lapses or technicalities where circumstances
demand the adjudication of the case on the merits.
- The Court applied Vda. De Mesa vs Mencias to the effect that the rule on substitution of parties (Sec. 17, Rule
3 ROC) applies to election contests to the same extent and with the same force and effect as it does in
ordinary civil actions.
5. Petitioner Unda as intervenor: a real party in interest. Therefore, he should be substituted as party protestee.
- Petitioner became a party to the election protest as an intervenor with the approval of the COMELEC.
Pleadings in the election protest should be properly amended to substitute petitioner Unda as the party
protestee, instead of his being merely an intervenor therein, and that prproceedings be thereafter conducted
accordingly.
- Under the LGC, the vice mayor stands next in the line of succession to the mayor in case of a
permanentvacancy in the latter’s position. Upon the death of the protestee mayor Guiling, petitioner, as the
incumbent vice-mayor succeeded by operation of law to the vacated office and is ordinarily entitled to occupy
the same for the unexpired term thereof.
- The outcome of the election contest necessarily and primarily bears upon his right to his present position (as
mayor) and he is the person directly concerned in the fair and regular conduct of the election, in order that
the true will of the electorate will be upheld. Hence, his status as a real party in interest in the continuation of
the case cannot be disputed.

ADJUDICATION:
1. SC affirmed COMELEC’s third resolution
2. Ordered RTC to appoint petitioner UNda as the legal representative of the deceased protestee Guiling and cause
amendment of pleadings and processes to substitute Unda therein in the name of Guiling.
3. Allowed Unda to file an answer in the election protest; for failure thereto, his answer-in-intervention shall serve
as his answer to the amended protes
4. Directed RTC to grant full participation of Unda as protestee.
5. 5. TRo lifted, RTC ordered to proceed with the trial and adjudication of the election case.