House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal – COMELEC



Q —    Michael Planas filed his certificate of candidacy for representative of the Third District of Quezon City. Anna Liza Cabochan likewise filed her certificate of candidacy but had to withdraw the same due to the Petition to Deny Due Course” filed by a registered voter for the reason that the Notary Public who notarized it had an expired commission. Matias Defensor filed his certificate of candidacy in substitution of Cabochan. A Petition to Deny Due Course to the certificate of Defensor was filed but before it could be resolved with finality by the COMELEC, the election was conducted, Defensor won and was proclaimed and took his oath and assumed. The COMELEC ruled that with his proclamation, it was divested of jurisdiction and that the HRET has now jurisdiction. Is the ruling of the COMELEC correct? Explain.


ANS:   Yes, because at the time of the proclamation of Defensor who garnered the highest number of votes, the resolution invalidating his certificate of candidacy was not yet final, hence, he had at that point in time remained qualified.


            His proclamation was valid or legal and as he in fact had taken his oath of office and assumed his duties as representative, the COMELEC had been effectively divested of jurisdiction over the case. (Planas v. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 167594, March 10, 2006, Carpio Morales, J).


Q —    Is the rule absolute? Why?


ANS:   No.



            The general rule is that the proclamation of a congressional candidate divests COMELEC of jurisdiction in favor of the HRET. This rule, however, is not without exception. In Mutuc, et al. v. COMELEC, et al., it was ruled that it is indeed true that after proclamation the usual remedy of any party aggrieved in an election is to be found in an election protest. But that is so only on the assumption that there has been a valid proclamation. Where however, the proclamation itself is illegal, the assumption of office cannot in any way affect the basic issues. (Planas v. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 167594, March 10, 2006).


Q —    How do you distinguish Codilla v. De Venecia, et al., 442 Phil. 139 (2002) from Planas v. COMELEC? Explain.


ANS:   In Codilla, the proclamation of Codilla, who garnered the highest number of votes but who was facing charges of many counts of indirect solicitation of votes, was ordered suspended even if he had not yet been summoned to answer the charges. Codilla thereupon filed a motion to lift the suspension order. The COMELEC Second Division, without resolving Codilla’s pending motion, issued a resolution declaring his disqualification and directing the immediate proclamation of the candidate who garnered the highest number of votes. Despite Codilla’s timely filing of a Motion for Reconsideration, the votes cast for Codilla were declared stray and Locsin, who garnered the second highest number votes, was proclaimed winner. It was held therein that at the time of the proclamation of Locsin, the validity of the Resolution of the COMELEC Second Division [disqualifying Codilla] was seasonably challenged by [Codilla] in his Motion for Reconsideration. The issue was still within the exclusive jurisdiction of the COMELEC en banc to resolve. Hence, the HRET cannot assume jurisdiction over the matter.


            In other words, at the time Codilla was declared disqualified by the Second Division and his rival Locsin who garnered the second highest number of votes was proclaimed, the Division Resolution which declared Codilla’s disqualification was not yet final, as Codilla’s Motion for Reconsideration thereof had yet to be acted upon by the COMELEC En Banc which had exclusive jurisdiction to resolve the same. The HRET could not thus assume jurisdiction as Locsin’s proclamation was invalid. (Planas v. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 167594, March 10, 2006, Carpio-Morales, J).


Q —    When does the Supreme Court have jurisdiction to review decisions of the HRET? Explain.


ANS:   The Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to review decisions and resolutions of HRET operates only upon a showing of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Tribunal tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Such grave abuse of discretion implies capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment amounting to lack of jurisdiction, or arbitrary and despotic exercise of power because of passion or personal hostility. The grave abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion or refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law. (Abubakar v. HRET, et al., G.R Nos. 173310 and 173609, March 7, 2007).