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Dimaporo and Ututalum vs. Comelec (1990)

Summary Cases:

Subject: No necessity to apply the Lagumbay doctrine; Pre-proclamation controversies shall be resolved in summary proceedings; Remedy of petitioners; Limitations of pre-preclamation controversies; Mandatory requirement to comply with procedure for pre-proclamation controversies

Facts:

1990, an election for Regional Governor, Regional Vice-Governor for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was conducted pursuant to Republic Act No. 6734, the Organic Act creating that Autonomous Region.

Sultan Mohammad and Nurhussein Ututalum (petitioners) were the official candidates of the United Opposition (KBL-NP) coalition party while Zacaria Candao and Benjamin Loong (respondents) were the official candidates of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) party.

G.R. Nos. 93201-04

During the canvass, petitioners raised objections to the inclusion of certain election returns. From adverse
During the canvass, petitioners raised objections to the inclusion of certain election returns. From
adverse rulings of the Sulu Provincial Board of Canvassers and the Regional Board of Canvassers,
petitioners appealed to the Commission on Elections ("Comelec"). Petitioners claimed that the
questioned election returns were "spurious, obviously manufactured and/or statistically improbable.
The First Division of the Comelec dismissed all the appeals for lack of merit and for lack of jurisdiction,
particularly: (a) the objections raised against the election returns were "merely generalizations" and not
supported by substantial evidence, and (b) that petitioners had not filed a written intent to appeal from
the rulings of the Provincial Board of Canvassers.

Petitioners appealed to the Comelec En Banc which modified the First Division by ordering the exclusion from the canvass of the election returns from 88 precincts for being "statistically improbable." The Comelec En Banc applied Lagumbay v. Comelec where all the candidates of one party garnered all the votes, each of them receiving exactly the same number of votes, while all the candidates of the opposing party getting uniformly and precisely nothing. In Lagumbay, the Court held such returns to be "statistically improbable" and "obviously manufactured", the fraud being so palpable from the return itself that there was no reason to give the return prima facie value and that consequently, evidence aliunde to show fraud was entirely unnecessary.

G.R. No. 93205

During the canvass of election returns from the Municipality of Languyan in the Province of Tawi-Tawi, petitioners objected to the inclusion of the election returns from 36 precincts. In the questioned precincts, 100% or 99% of registered voters are recorded to have cast their votes, and respondents obtained all the votes cast while petitioners got a uniform zero vote.

The Provincial Board of Canvassers of Tawi-Tawi overruled the objections of petitioners for failure to present evidence aliunde of the fraud alleged. Petitioners appealed to the Comelec.

The Second Division of the Comelec reversed the Board of Canvassers by ordering the exclusion of 15 | Page 1 of 4

The Second Division of the Comelec reversed the Board of Canvas sers by ordering the exc

election returns under the authority of the Lagumbay doctrine of "statistical improbability". The inclusion of the remaining election returns from 21 other precincts was in effect sustained since not all the candidates of the LDP had received exactly the same number of vote. Petitioners appealed to the Comelec En Banc which appeal was denied.

G.R. No. 93602

Petitioners objected to the election returns from certain precincts in 6 municipalities in Maguindanao. From adverse rulings of the Maguindanao Provincial Board of Canvassers, petitioners appealed to the Comelec. They alleged that in some precincts, the "number of votes counted" exceeded the number of registered voters. Also, a shooting war occurred between the MNLF and MILF so that no elections were conducted in such barangays, but that notwithstanding, the returns from those barangays showed "a very high percentage of voting."

The Comelec Second Division dismissed petitioner's appeal. The Comelec En Banc sustained the dismissal

Petition

In the present consolidated petitions, the Court will determine whether the Comelec En Banc committed grave abuse of discretion in the above cases.

Held: No necessity to apply the Lagumbay doctrine 1. Respondents Candao and Loong have demonstrated
Held:
No necessity to apply the Lagumbay doctrine
1. Respondents Candao and Loong have demonstrated that even if their votes embraced in the

contested election returns from the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are nullified as requested by petitioners, such nullification will not affect the vote of the respondents. Hence, there is no need to pass upon and resolve the central issue raised by petitioners - whether or not the Lagumbay doctrine of "statistical improbability" should be expanded to apply to election returns differing from the specific factual situation dealt with in Lagumbay. In the cases at bar, whatever conclusion the Court might have reached on this issue would merely constitute dictum, considering that even if the Court were to nullify all

the returns objected to by petitioners on grounds of "statistical improbability", respondents Candao and Loong would still show a very substantial margin over the total votes of petitioner.

Pre-proclamation controversies shall be resolved in summary proceedings

2. The Court has also taken particular account of the need for speedy resolution of these cases,

considering the length of time which has gone by since the election was held last 17 February 1990 without the winning candidates for Regional Governor and Regional Vice-Governor being proclaimed. The public policy involved in the rule that pre-proclamation controversies shall be resolved in summary proceedings, is very real and insistent. The public interest requires that the position for the filling of which the election was held should be filled as promptly as possible, even if the proclamation of the winning candidates be provisional in nature, in the sense that such would be subject to the results of the election protest or protests that may be expected to be filed.

Remedy of petitioners

3. Petitioners' principal remedy is to file election protests before the Comelec (Article IX [C] [2] [2], 1987

Constitution) - and there to litigate all the issues raised by them in as much detail as they might deem

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Constitution) - and there to litigate all the issues raised by them in as much detail

necessary or appropriate. Another remedy open to petitioners is the filing of criminal charges for election offenses against those who, petitioners believe, are responsible for the frauds and assorted trickery alleged to have been committed.

Limitations of pre-preclamation controversies

4. In G.R. No. 93602, petitioners claimed that the Comelec gravely abused its discretion when it refused

to order the expert technical examination of the signatures and thumbmarks of the registered voters affixed to their voter's affidavits and to the lists of voters in the voting records in the contested precincts.

5. Since Dianalan vs. Comelec (1987), the examination of voter's affidavits and voting records on the

ground that there was massive substitute voting or that no elections were held, has been definitely ruled out by the Supreme Court. For to accept the grounds cited, and to allow the procedure suggested, is to expand the narrow and exclusive grounds defined by law for initiating and sustaining pre-proclamation controversies.

6. In earlier cases, the court ruled that the Commission on Elections could investigate charges of

irregularities in the conduct of the elections as an incident of its power to canvass the votes and proclaim the winners; and this was possible because its jurisdiction over pre-proclamation questions was not limited then and subject to Comelec abuse. Now it is expressly limited under Section 243 of the Omnibus Election Code and cannot extend beyond the matters exclusively enumerated therein. A reading of this section will readily show that it applies only to the specific deficiencies therein enumerated and that questions relating to alleged irregularities in the voting such as fraud, substitution or vote-buying and terrorism are proper matters for election protests.

7. The policy consideration underlying the delimitation both of substantive ground and procedure is the
7. The policy consideration underlying the delimitation both of substantive ground and procedure is the
policy to determine as quickly as possible the result of the election on the basis of canvass. To uphold
otherwise is to allow the prolonged and indefinite suspension of resolutions on pre-proclamation
controversies by the simple expedient of resorting to the examination of voluminous documents. This
process can be used in a full-blown judicial inquiry incident to an election protest.

8. Under the regime of the Omnibus Election Code, pre-proclamation controversies are properly limited

to challenges directed against the Board of Canvassers and proceedings before such Board of Canvassers, and not the Board of Election inspectors nor proceedings before such latter Board. Such challenges should relate to particular election returns to which petitioner should have made specific verbal objection subsequently confirmed in writing.

9. In a pre-proclamation controversy, it is axiomatic that the Comelec is not to look beyond or

behind election returns which are on their face regular and authentic returns. A party seeking to raise issues resolution of which would compel the Comelec to pierce the veil, so to speak, of election returns prima facie regular, has his proper remedy in a regular election protest. By their nature, and given the obvious public interest in the speedy determination of the results of elections, pre-proclamation controversies are to be resolved in summary proceedings

Mandatory requirement to comply with procedure for pre-proclamation controversies

10. The Comelec held that petitioners' failure to present evidence before the Maguindanao Provincial Board of Canvassers was fatal. The issue refers to the procedure to be observed in the registration of objections at the board of canvassers level and the bringing of adverse rulings on appeal to the Commission. We reiterate the mandatory requirement to comply with procedure for pre-proclamation controversies in view of the public policy to have a quick determination of the result of the election. By

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in view of the public policy to have a quick determina tion of the result of

their nature, pre-proclamation controversies already delay proclamation. To allow the deviation from procedural requirements is to open cases of this nature to protracted uncertainty because new grounds and new issues can be raised at the different levels of jurisdiction. Even ordinary cases not impressed with public policy considerations are not allowed to be litigated this way.

ordinary cases not impressed with public policy considerations are not allowed to be litigated this way.
ordinary cases not impressed with public policy considerations are not allowed to be litigated this way.

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