[G.R. NO. 176135 : June 16, 2009]
CARLOS IRWIN G. BALDO, JR., Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, THE MUNICIPAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS OF CAMALIG, ALBAY and ROMMEL MUÃ‘OZ, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Averring grave abuse of discretion in its issuance, the instant Petition for Certiorari, under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court, seeks the review of the Resolution dated 8 January 2007 of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) En Banc, affirming the Resolution dated 12 September 2006 of the COMELEC First Division in SPC Case No. 04-087, which dismissed the appeal, filed by petitioner Carlos Irwin G. Baldo, Jr. (Baldo), of the ruling of the Municipal Board of Canvassers (MBOC) of Camalig, Albay, to include in the canvassing of votes the election returns (ERs) objected to by petitioner Baldo.
Petitioner Baldo and respondent Rommel MuÃ±oz (MuÃ±oz) were candidates for the position of municipal mayor of Camalig, Albay in the 10 May 2004 local elections. At 6 p.m. of 10 May 2004, the MBOC convened to begin the canvass of the ERs.
During the canvass proceedings on 11 May 2004, petitioner Baldo objected to the inclusion of 26 ERs from various precincts based on the following grounds: (1) eight ERs lack inner seal; (2) seven ERs lack material data; (3) one ER lacks signatures; (4) four ERs lack signatures and thumbmarks of the members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) on the envelope containing them; (5) one ER lacks the name and signature of the poll clerk on the second page thereof; (6) one ER lacks the number of votes in words and figures; and (7) four ERs were prepared under duress and intimidation.
On 13 May 2004, the MBOC overruled petitioner Baldo's objections and included the disputed ERs in the canvassing of votes. Petitioner Baldo appealed to the COMELEC the unfavorable ruling of the MBOC on his objections to the ERs in question. His appeal was docketed as SPC Case No. 04-087 and was raffled to the COMELEC First Division.
Despite the pendency of SPC Case No. 04-087 with the COMELEC First Division, the MBOC proclaimed respondent MuÃ±oz as the winning candidate for municipal mayor of Camalig, Albay, on 19 May 2004.
On 21 May 2004, petitioner Baldo filed with the COMELEC a Petition seeking to annul, for being premature, the proclamation of respondent MuÃ±oz as the municipal mayor of Camalig, Albay. The Petition was docketed as SPC No. 04-124 and was again raffled to the COMELEC First Division.
On 12 September 2006, the COMELEC First Division issued its Resolution in SPC No. 04-087, dismissing petitioner Baldo's appeal. The COMELEC First Division decreed thus:
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the appeal is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. Accordingly, the election returns for Precinct Nos. 127B, 40A/41A, 24A, 8A, 57A, 6A/6B, 54A/54B, 141A, 71A/71B, 72A, 19A, 44A, 154A. 47A, 86A, 132A, 145A, 171A,/171B, 39A, 112A, 137A/133A, 99A, 93A, 175A, 106A, 95A, which were either not included or which were temporarily tallied in a separate statement of votes and are hereby DIRECTED to be INCLUDED into the OFFICIAL TALLY in order to determine the total number of votes actually received by the candidates for mayor in the municipality.
The Municipal Board of Canvassers of Camalig, Albay is ORDERED to immediately convene with proper notice to the parties, for the purpose of including in the official canvass the contested election returns and/or transferring into the official tally the results of the precincts which were temporarily tallied, compute the complete results from ALL the 134 precincts which functioned in Camalig, Albay, in the May 10, 2004 elections and forthwith PROCLAIM the winning candidate for mayor of Camalig, Albay.1
Petitioner Baldo sought reconsideration of the foregoing, but on 8 January 2007, the COMELEC En Banc issued a Resolution affirming the judgment of the COMELEC First Division. The dispositive portion of the said Resolution reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES to AFFIRM the Resolution of the Commission (First Division) with the MODIFICATION that the board of election inspectors concerned in Precinct No. 127B be summoned by the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Camalig, Albay, to complete the necessary data in the election returns of the said precinct.2
Petitioner Baldo filed the instant Petition for Certiorari based on the following grounds:
A. THE COMELEC GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION WHEN IT AFFIRMED THE ASSAILED RULINGS OF PUBLIC RESPONDENT MBOC IN THE 26 CONTESTED ELECTION RETURNS FOR PRECINCT NOS. 99A, 93A, 175A, 106A, 95A, 127B, 40A/41A, 24A, 8A, 57A, 6A/6B, 54A/54B, 141A, 71A/71B, 72A, 132A, 145A, 171A/171B, 39A, 112A, 137A,/133A, 19A, 44A, 154A, 47A, 86A; AND
B. THE COMELEC GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION WHEN IT ORDERED THE INCLUSIONS OF THE SAID RETURNS IN THE OFFICIAL TALLY, AS THE SAME ARE MATERIALLY AND FATALLY DEFECTIVE, WHICH ARE PROPER GROUNDS FOR A PRE-PROCLAMATION CONTROVERSY WITHIN THE AMBIT OF SECTION 243 (b) OF THE OMNIBUS ELECTION CODE.3
While the instant Petition is pending before this Court, national and local elections were held on 14 May 2007, and the winners therein assumed office by 1 July 2007. In said elections, petitioner Baldo won and is now serving as the municipal mayor of Camalig, Albay. Therefore, the term of office for the seat of municipal mayor of Camalig, Albay, being contested herein, had already expired on 30 June 2007, rendering the instant Petition moot.
In Malaluan v. COMELEC,4 this Court pronounced that the expiration of the challenged term of office renders the corresponding petition moot, to wit:
It is significant to note that the term of office of the local officials elected in the May, 1992 elections expired on June 30, 1995. This petition, thus, has become moot and academic insofar as it concerns petitioner's right to the mayoralty seat in his municipality because expiration of the term of office contested in the election protest has the effect of rendering the same moot and academic.Ï‚Î·Î±Ã±rÎ¿blÎµÅ¡ Î½Î¹râ€ Ï…Î±l lÎ±Ï‰ lÎ¹brÎ±rÃ¿
When the appeal from a decision in an election case has already become moot, the case being an election protest involving the office of [the] mayor the term of which had expired, the appeal is dismissible on that ground, unless the rendering of a decision on the merits would be of practical value. This rule we established in the case of Yorac v. Magalona which we dismissed because it had been mooted by the expiration of the term of office of the Municipal Mayor of Saravia, Negros Occidental. x x x. (Underscoring ours.) (Citation omitted.)
A case becomes moot when there is no more actual controversy between the parties or no useful purpose can be served in passing upon the merits. Courts will not determine a moot question in a case in which no practical relief can be granted.5 It is unnecessary to indulge in academic discussion of a case presenting a moot question,6 as a judgment thereon cannot have any practical legal effect or, in the nature of things, cannot be enforced.7
In Garcia v. COMELEC,8 this Court held that where the issues have become moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, thereby rendering the resolution of the same of no practical use or value.
Similarly, in Gancho-on v. Secretary of Labor and Employment,9 the Court ruled that:
It is a rule of universal application, almost, that courts of justice constituted to pass upon substantial rights will not consider questions in which no actual interests are involved; they decline jurisdiction of moot cases. And where the issue has become moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical use or value. There is no actual substantial relief to which petitioners would be entitled and which would be negated by the dismissal of the petition.
Since the present Petition is grounded on petitioner Baldo's specific objections to the 26 ERs in the previous local elections, no practical or useful purpose would be served by still passing on the merits thereof. Even if the Court sets aside the assailed COMELEC Resolutions and orders the exclusion of the disputed ERs from the canvass of votes, and as a result thereof, petitioner Baldo would emerge as the winning candidate for municipal mayor of Camalig, Albay, in the 10 May 2004 local elections, it would be an empty victory. It is already impossible for petitioner Baldo to still assume office as municipal mayor of Camalig, Albay, elected in the 10 May 2004 local elections, since his tenure as such had ended on 30 June 2007. Petitioner Baldo himself is currently occupying the very same office as the winning candidate in the 14 May 2007 local elections. Irrefragably, the Court can no longer grant to petitioner Baldo any practical relief capable of enforcement. Consequently, the Court is left with no other recourse than to dismiss the instant Petition on the ground of mootness.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Petition is DISMISSED for being MOOT.
* On official leave.
1 Rollo, p. 36.
2 Id. at 41-42.
3 Id. at 12-13.
4 324 Phil. 676, 683 (1996).
5 Villarico v. Court of Appeals, 424 Phil. 26, 33-34 (2002).
6 Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines, Inc. v. Secretary of Labor, 371 Phil. 30, 43 (1999).
7 Lanuza, Jr. v. Yuchengco, G.R. No. 157033, 28 March 2005, 454 SCRA 130, 138.
8 328 Phil. 288 (1996).
9 337 Phil. 654, 658 (1997).