COMELEC v. Silva
COMELEC charged private respondents Erasto Tanciongco and Norma Castillo with violations of Section 27 of R.A. No. 6646, together with Zenon Uy, filed with the Regional Trial Court of Bataan. Tanciongco, who is provincial prosecutor of Bataan, was vice chairman, while Castillo, who is division superintendent of schools, was secretary of the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Bataan and Uy, who is assistant regional director of elections, was chairman of the board. They were accused for having tampered with the ballots in favor of Juan Ponce Enrile in the May 8, 1995 elections. The Judge who presided is respondent Lorenzo R. Silva Jr and Judge Benjamin T. Vianzon.
The case was dismissed by the said judges when Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuno, designated by the COMELEC to prosecute, filed a comment joining in the respondent’s request of dismissal of the case. The COMELEC through Jose P. Balbuena, sought to appeal the dismissal of the case however this was dismissed by the Court of Appeals on account of due process because the prosecutor had taken an earlier stand in the case against the COMELEC. Thus the petition for certiorari and mandamus seeks the nullification of the orders of the judges in the Notices of appeal.
Whether or not the authority to decide the appeal is for the prosecutor or the COMELEC to decide.
Whether the orders of dismissal should be appealed is for the COMELEC to decide, not for Chief State Prosecutor whom it has merely deputized to represent them in court. The 1987 Constitution mandates the COMELEC not only to investigate but also to prosecute cases of violation of election laws. This means that the COMELEC is empowered to conduct preliminary investigations in cases involving election offenses for the purpose of helping the Judge determine probable cause and for filing information in court. This power is exclusive with the COMELEC.
Prosecutors designated by the COMELEC to prosecute the cases act as its deputies. They derive their authority from it and not from their offices. Consequently, it was beyond the power of Chief State Prosecutor Balbuena to oppose the appeal of the COMELEC. For that matter, it was beyond his power, as COMELEC-designated prosecutor, to leave to the trial courts the determination of whether there was probable cause for the filing of the cases and, if it found none, whether the cases should be dismissed.