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So too must fall petitioner’s procedural objection that private respondent should be faulted for forum-shopping vis-à-vis this Court’s pronouncement in Samad v. COMELEC44 [224 SCRA 631 [1993].] which states in no uncertain terms that –

As a general rule, the filing of an election protest or a petition for quo warranto precludes the subsequent filing of a pre-proclamation controversy, or amounts to the abandonment of one earlier filed, thus depriving the COMELEC of the authority to inquire into and pass upon the title of the protestee or the validity of his proclamation. The reason is that once the competent tribunal has acquired jurisdiction of an election protest or a petition for quo warranto, all questions relative thereto will have to be decided in the case itself and not in another proceeding. This procedure will prevent confusion and conflict of authority. Conformably, we have ruled in a number of cases that after a proclamation has been made, a pre-proclamation case before the COMELEC is no longer viable.

The rule admits of exceptions, however, as where: (1) the board of canvassers was improperly constituted; (2) quo warranto was not the proper remedy; (3) what was filed was not really a petition for quo warranto or an election protest but a petition to annul a proclamation; (4) the filing of a quo warranto petition or an election protest was expressly made without prejudice to the pre-proclamation controversy or was made ad cautelam; and (5) the proclamation was null and void.



Petitioner further argues that his submissions that a.] the integrity of the ballot boxes has been violated; b.] only rejected ballots or ballots manually counted are the proper subjects of an election protest; and c.] private respondent is guilty of forum-shopping, are enough grounds to dismiss the case.

We remain unconvinced.

As aptly observed by the COMELEC in the challenged Resolution, these grounds are "evidentiary in nature and can be best ventilated during the trial of the case."38 [Rollo, p. 40; Annex A, Petition, p. 9.] It needs be stressed in this regard that the purpose of an election protest is to ascertain whether the candidate proclaimed elected by the board of canvassers is really the lawful choice of the electorate.39 [Agpalo R., The Law On Public Officers, 1st ed. (1998), p. 58.] In an election contest where the correctness of the number of votes is involved, the best and most conclusive evidence are the ballots themselves; where the ballots can not be produced or are not available, the election returns would be the best evidence.40 [Lerias v. HRET, 202 SCRA 808 [1991].] In this case, the counted official ballots are available and there is no evidence, other than the bare allegation of petitioner, that the sanctity of the ballot boxes subject matter of the protest have been violated or the official ballots contained therein impaired. The best way, therefore, to test the truthfulness of petitioner’s claim is to open the ballot boxes in the protested precincts followed by the examination, revision, recounting and re-appreciation of the official ballots therein contained in accordance with law and pertinent rules on the matter. Needless to state this can only be done through a full-blown trial on the merits, not a peremptory resolution of the motion to dismiss on the basis of the bare and one-sided averments made therein


SEC. 2. Filing of Protest. – Any losing candidate, who registers his objections on the rejection of ballots, may file a protest with the Commission within ten (10) days from proclamation of the winning candidates in accordance with the Comelec Rules of Procedure


Only rejected ballots and ballots manually counted shall be the subject of protest.


SEC. 3. Examination of rejected ballots. – In determining the intent of the voter in the case of rejected ballots, the rejection of which have been objected to and noted in the Minute of Counting, the Commission shall examine and appreciate the rejected ballots concerned applying the provision of Section 7 of Resolution No. 2862 (Rules and Regulations on the Manual Counting and Canvassing of Votes in Case of Failure of the Automated Counting System in the September 9, 1996 Elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao [ARMM], promulgated 14 August 1996).]


 SEC. 258. Preferential disposition of contests in courts. The RTC, in their respective cases, shall give preference to election contests over all other cases, except those of habeas corpus, and shall, without delay, hear and within thirty (30) days from the date of their submission for decision, but in every case within six (6) months after filing, decide the same. xxx37 [See also Rule 35, Section 18 and Rule 36, Section 11, COMELEC Rules.] (emphasis and italics supplied)  



Petitioner’s argument that the filing of a motion to dismiss in an election contest filed with a regular court is not a prohibited pleading is well taken. As we pointed out in Melendres, Jr. v. COMELEC: 45 [G.R. No. 129958, 25 November 1999, pp. 15-16.]

Neither can petitioner seek refuge behind his argument that the motion to dismiss filed by private respondent is a prohibited pleading under Section 1, Rule 13 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure because the said provision refers to proceedings filed before the COMELEC. The applicable provisions on the matter are found in Part VI of the Rules of Procedure titled "PROVISIONS GOVERNING ELECTION CONTESTS BEFORE TRIAL COURT" and as this Court pointedly stated in Aruelo v. Court of Appeals46 [227 SCRA 311 [1993].]

It must be noted that nowhere in Part VI of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure is it provided that motions to dismiss and bill of particulars are not allowed in election protests or quo warranto cases pending before regular courts.

Constitutionally speaking, the COMELEC cannot adopt a rule prohibiting the filing of a certain pleading in the regular courts. The power to promulgate rules concerning pleadings, practice and procedure in all courts is vested in the Supreme Court.47 [Citing Article VIII, Section 5 (5), Constitution.]

En Banc, Justice Ynares-Santiago, ABDULMADID P.B. MARUHOM, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and HADJI JAMIL DIMAPORO, respondents. [G.R. No. 139357. May 5, 2000]


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Last Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2001 01:49:38 AM