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G.R. No. 206987, September 10, 2013 - ALLIANCE FOR NATIONALISM AND DEMOCRACY (ANAD), Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, Respondent.

G.R. No. 206987, September 10, 2013 - ALLIANCE FOR NATIONALISM AND DEMOCRACY (ANAD), Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, Respondent.

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

G.R. No. 206987, September 10, 2013

ALLIANCE FOR NATIONALISM AND DEMOCRACY (ANAD), Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

PEREZ, J.:

Before the Court is a Petition for Certiorari with Urgent Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and Writ of Mandamus, seeking to compel the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to canvass the votes cast for petitioner Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) in the recently held 2013 Party-List Elections.

On 7 November 2012, the COMELEC En Banc promulgated a Resolution cancelling petitioner’s Certificate of Registration and/or Accreditation on three grounds, to wit:1
I.

Petitioner ANAD does not belong to, or come within the ambit of, the marginalized and underrepresented sectors enumerated in Section 5 of R.A. No. 7941 and espoused in the cases of Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections and Ang Ladlad LGBT Party v. Commission on Elections.

II.

There is no proof showing that nominees Arthur J. Tariman and Julius D. Labandria are actually nominated by ANAD itself. The Certificate of Nomination, subscribed and sworn to by Mr. Domingo M. Balang, shows that ANAD submitted only the names of Pastor Montero Alcover, Jr., Baltaire Q. Balangauan and Atty. Pedro Leslie B. Salva. It necessarily follows, that having only three (3) nominees, ANAD failed to comply with the procedural requirements set forth in Section 4, Rule 3 of Resolution No. 9366.

III.

ANAD failed to submit its Statement of Contributions and Expenditures for the 2007 National and Local Elections as required by Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166 (“R.A. No. 7166”).
ANAD went before this Court challenging the above-mentioned resolution. In Atong Paglaum, Inc. v. Comelec,2 the Court remanded the case to the COMELEC for re-evaluation in accordance with the parameters prescribed in the aforesaid decision.

In the assailed Resolution dated 11 May 2013,3 the COMELEC affirmed the cancellation of petitioner’s Certificate of Registration and/or Accreditation and disqualified it from participating in the 2013 Elections. The COMELEC held that while ANAD can be classified as a sectoral party lacking in well-defined political constituencies, its disqualification still subsists for violation of election laws and regulations, particularly for its failure to submit at least five nominees, and for its failure to submit its Statement of Contributions and Expenditures for the 2007 Elections.

Hence, the present petition raising the issues of whether or not the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in promulgating the assailed Resolution without the benefit of a summary evidentiary hearing mandated by the due process clause, and whether or not the COMELEC erred in finding that petitioner submitted only three nominees and that it failed to submit its Statement of Contributions and Expenditures in the 2007 Elections.4cralaw virtualaw library

We dismiss the petition.

The only question that may be raised in a petition for certiorari under Section 2, Rule 64 of the Rules of Court is whether or not the COMELEC acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. For a petition for certiorari to prosper, there must be a clear showing of caprice and arbitrariness in the exercise of discretion.5cralaw virtualaw library

“Grave abuse of discretion,” under Rule 65, has a specific meaning. It is the arbitrary or despotic exercise of power due to passion, prejudice or personal hostility; or the whimsical, arbitrary, or capricious exercise of power that amounts to an evasion or a refusal to perform a positive duty enjoined by law or to act at all in contemplation of law. For an act to be struck down as having been done with grave abuse of discretion, the abuse of discretion must be patent and gross.6cralaw virtualaw library

ANAD claims that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion when it promulgated the assailed Resolution without giving ANAD the benefit of a summary evidentiary hearing, thus violating its right to due process. It is to be noted, however, that ANAD was already afforded a summary hearing on 23 August 2013, during which Mr. Domingo M. Balang, ANAD’s president, authenticated documents and answered questions from the members of the COMELEC pertinent to ANAD’s qualifications.7cralaw virtualaw library

ANAD, nonetheless, insists that the COMELEC should have called for another summary hearing after this Court remanded the case to the COMELEC for re-evaluation in accordance with the parameters laid down in Atong Paglaum, Inc. v. Comelec. This is a superfluity.

ANAD was already given the opportunity to prove its qualifications during the summary hearing of 23 August 2012, during which ANAD submitted documents and other pieces of evidence to establish said qualifications. In re-evaluating ANAD’s qualifications in accordance with the parameters laid down in Atong Paglaum, Inc. v. COMELEC, the COMELEC need not have called another summary hearing. The Comelec could, as in fact it did,8 readily resort to documents and other pieces of evidence previously submitted by petitioners in re-appraising ANAD’s qualifications. After all, it can be presumed that the qualifications, or lack thereof, which were established during the summary hearing of 23 August 2012 continued until election day and even thereafter.

As to ANAD’s averment that the COMELEC erred in finding that it violated election laws and regulations, we hold that the COMELEC, being a specialized agency tasked with the supervision of elections all over the country, its factual findings, conclusions, rulings and decisions rendered on matters falling within its competence shall not be interfered with by this Court in the absence of grave abuse of discretion or any jurisdictional infirmity or error of law.9cralaw virtualaw library

As found by the COMELEC, ANAD, for unknown reasons, submitted only three nominees instead of five, in violation of Sec. 8 of R.A. No. 7941 (An Act Providing for the Election of Party-List Representatives through the Party-List System, and Appropriating Funds Therefor).10 Such factual finding of the COMELEC was based on the Certificate of Nomination presented and marked by petitioner during the 22 and 23 August 2012 summary hearings.11cralaw virtualaw library

Compliance with Section 8 of R.A. No. 7941 is essential as the said provision is a safeguard against arbitrariness. Section 8 of R.A. No. 7941 rids a party-list organization of the prerogative to substitute and replace its nominees, or even to switch the order of the nominees, after submission of the list to the COMELEC.

In Lokin, Jr. v. Comelec,12 the Court discussed the importance of Sec. 8 of R.A. No. 7941 in this wise:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
The prohibition is not arbitrary or capricious; neither is it without reason on the part of lawmakers. The COMELEC can rightly presume from the submission of the list that the list reflects the true will of the party-list organization. The COMELEC will not concern itself with whether or not the list contains the real intended nominees of the party-list organization, but will only determine whether the nominees pass all the requirements prescribed by the law and whether or not the nominees possess all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications. Thereafter, the names of the nominees will be published in newspapers of general circulation. Although the people vote for the party-list organization itself in a party-list system of election, not for the individual nominees, they still have the right to know who the nominees of any particular party-list organization are. The publication of the list of the party-list nominees in newspapers of general circulation serves that right of the people, enabling the voters to make intelligent and informed choices. In contrast, allowing the party-list organization to change its nominees through withdrawal of their nominations, or to alter the order of the nominations after the submission of the list of nominees circumvents the voters’ demand for transparency. The lawmakers’ exclusion of such arbitrary withdrawal has eliminated the possibility of such circumvention.
Moreover, the COMELEC also noted ANAD’s failure to submit a proper Statement of Contributions and Expenditures for the 2007 Elections, in violation of COMELEC Resolution No. 9476, viz:chanrobles virtua1aw 1ibrary
Rule 8, Sec. 3. Form and contents of statements. – The statement required in next preceding section shall be in writing, subscribed and sworn to by the candidate or by the treasurer of the party. It shall set forth in detail the following:
  1. The amount of contribution, the date of receipt, and the full name, profession, business, taxpayer identification number (TIN) and exact home and business address of the person or entity from whom the contribution was received; (See Schedule of Contributions Received, Annex “G”)

  2. The amount of every expenditure, the date thereof, the full name and exact address of the person or entity to whom payment was made, and the purpose of the expenditure; (See Schedule of Expenditures, Annex “H”)

    A Summary Report of Lawful Expenditure categorized according to the list specified above shall be submitted by the candidate or party treasurer within thirty (30) days after the day of the election. The prescribed form for this Summary Report is hereby attached to these Rules as Annex “H-1.”

  3. Any unpaid obligation, its nature and amount, the full name and exact home and business address of the person or entity to whom said obligation is owing; and (See Schedule of Unpaid Obligations, Annex “I”)

  4. If the candidate or treasurer of the party has received no contribution, made no expenditure, or has no pending obligation, the statement shall reflect such fact;

  5. And such other information that the Commission may require.

    The prescribed form for the Statement of Election Contributions and Expenses is attached to these Rules as Annex “F.” The Schedules of Contributions and Expenditures (Annexes “G” and “H”, respectively) should be supported and accompanied by certified true copies of official receipts, invoices and other similar documents.

    An incomplete statement, or a statement that does not contain all the required information and attachments, or does not conform to the prescribed form, shall be considered as not filed and shall subject the candidate or party treasurer to the penalties prescribed by law.
As found by the COMELEC, ANAD failed to comply with the above-mentioned requirements as the exhibits submitted by ANAD consisted mainly of a list of total contributions from other persons, a list of official receipts and amounts without corresponding receipts, and a list of expenditures based on order slips and donations without distinction as to whether the amounts listed were advanced subject to reimbursement or donated.13 This factual finding was neither contested nor rebutted by ANAD.

We herein take the opportunity to reiterate the well-established principle that the rule that factual findings of administrative bodies will not be disturbed by the courts of justice except when there is absolutely no evidence or no substantial evidence in support of such findings should be applied with greater force when it concerns the COMELEC, as the framers of the Constitution intended to place the COMELEC – created and explicitly made independent by the Constitution itself – on a level higher than statutory administrative organs. The COMELEC has broad powers to ascertain the true results of the election by means available to it. For the attainment of that end, it is not strictly bound by the rules of evidence.14cralaw virtualaw library

As empowered by law, the COMELEC may motu proprio cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of any party-list organization if it violates or fails to comply with laws, rules or regulations relating to elections.15 Thus, we find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC when it issued the assailed Resolution dated 11 May 2013.

In any event, the official tally results of the COMELEC show that ANAD garnered 200,972 votes.16 As such, even if petitioner is declared qualified and the votes cast for it are canvassed, statistics show that it will still fail to qualify for a seat in the House of Representatives.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court Resolves to DISMISS the Petition, finding no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Commission on Elections.chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Abad, Villarama, Jr., Mendoza, Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, and Leonen, JJ., concur.
Velasco, Jr., J., No part.

Endnotes:


1Rollo, p. 18.cralawnad

2 G.R. Nos. 203766, 8 April 2013.cralawnad

3Rollo, pp. 17-22.cralawnad

4 Id. at 4.cralawnad

5Dela Cruz v. COMELEC, G.R. 192221, 13 November 2012, 685 SCRA 347, 359.cralawnad

6Beluso v. Comelec, G.R. No. 180711, 22 June 2010, 621 SCRA 450, 456.cralawnad

7Rollo, p. 18.cralawnad

8 Id. at 68.cralawnad

9Dela Cruz v. COMELEC, supra note 5 at 359.cralawnad

10 Sec. 8. Nomination of Party-List Representatives. – Each registered party, organization or coalition shall submit to the Commission not later than forty-five (45) days before the election a list of names, not less than five (5), from which party-list representatives shall be chosen in case it obtains the required number of votes.cralawnad

11Rollo, p. 73; footnote 21 of Comelec’s Comment.cralawnad

12 G.R. Nos. 179431-32 and 180443, 22 June 2010, 621 SCRA 385, 408-409.cralawnad

13Rollo, p. 75; footnote 24 of Comelec’s Comment.cralawnad

14Mastura v. Comelec, G.R. No. 124521, 29 January 1998, 285 SCRA 493, 499.cralawnad

15 Section 6, R.A. No. 7941

16 NBOC Resolution No. 0008-13, In the Matter of the Proclamation of Additional Winning Party-List Groups, Organizations and Coalitions in Connection with the 13 May 2013 Automated National and Local Elections, promulgated on 28 May 2013.
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