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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 43761. July 15, 1935. ]

DOMINGO CACHO, Protestant-Appellant, v. JOSE ABAD ET AL., protestees. JOSE ABAD, Appellee.

Alfredo L. Noel for Appellant.

Jose P. Carag for Appellee.

SYLLABUS


1. ELECTIONS; PROVISION FOR TERMINATION OF ELECTORAL CONTESTS WITHIN ONE YEAR, WHETHER APPLICABLE TO SUPREME COURT. — The provision of the amended Election Law found in section 479 of the Administrative Code that "All proceedings in an electoral contest shall be terminated within one year," applies only to proceedings in Courts of First Instance. (Portillo v. Salvani [1930], 54 Phil., 543.)


D E C I S I O N


MALCOLM, J.:


This is a motion presented by the protestee, a candidate for the position of provincial governor of Batanes, which asks that the appeal be dismissed for the reason that more than a year has elapsed from the filing of the motion of protest. It is conceded that the case was decided by the trial court before the expiration of one year, but it is submitted that the last sentence of the second paragraph of section 479 of the Administrative Code, as amended, reading, "All proceedings in an electoral contest shall be terminated within one year," applies to proceedings both in the trial court and in the appellate court.

The sentence of the law which is relied upon is found in a section which relates to hearings in contested elections in Courts of First Instance. The succeeding section 480 concerns appeals to the Supreme Court in election cases, and the following section 481 concerns the mode of procedure in court cases, including the provision "The Court of First Instance and the Supreme Court shall hear election contests in preference to all other cases and shall try and decide them as soon as possible, whether it be a regular term of court or not." Consequently the location of the provision in question is plainly indicative of a legislative intention to have it relate exclusively to proceedings in Courts of First Instance.

Both parties rely on the case of Portillo v. Salvani ([1930], 54 Phil., 543). That was a case involving the provincial governorship of Antique. The protestee and appellant impugned the jurisdiction of the trial court on the ground that it had lost jurisdiction of the trial court on the ground that it had lost jurisdiction over the case because more than the one year fixed by the statute had elapsed. Those were the controlling facts. The legal question based on the facts was whether the provision of the amended Election Law that "All proceedings in an electoral contest shall be terminated within one year" was directory or mandatory. It was held that the Philippine Legislature intended the amendment to the Electoral Law to be mandatory, "and that inasmuch as the proceedings in the electoral contest at bar were not terminated within one year, the trial court lost authority over the case at the expiration of the year, with the result that the judgment thereafter attempted to be rendered was void for want of jurisdiction." It is obvious, therefore, that the decision in Portillo v. Salvani, supra, was confined exclusively to election proceedings in trial courts.

Possibly it should be explained further with reference to the decision of this court above-mentioned, that the result was arrived at principally because a contrary holding would have completely nullified the force of the legislative amendment to the Election Law. Since that decision was promulgated the Philippine Legislature has been afforded repeated opportunities to modify the law. That it has not done so is a clear indication of the fact that the legislative intention was effectuated by the decision. Nevertheless this being admitted, it would appear unwise to extend the meaning of the amendment beyond the field for which it was provided, namely, Courts of First Instance, to give it application to the Supreme Court when this was not within the thought of the Legislature. This court has assumed jurisdiction of a considerable number of election cases which arrived here after the expiration of the year period without any protest being made against this practice, which, it is believed, conforms to the purpose of the Election Law and is not in any way in conflict with the decision in Portillo v. Salvani, supra.

We hold that the amendment to section 479 of the Administrative Code found in the last sentence of the second paragraph applies only to electoral contests in Courts of First Instance. Wherefore, the motion will be denied and the case will take its due course on appeal.

Avanceña, C.J., Villa-Real, Abad Santos, Hull, Vickers, Imperial, Butte, Goddard, Diaz and Recto, JJ., concur.

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