Legally Yours,  Political Law

Javier v. COMELEC

Javier v. COMELEC

144 SCRA 194


Petitioner and private respondent were candidates in Antique for the Batasang Pambansa in the May 1984 elections. The former appeared to enjoy more popular support but the latter had the advantage of being the nominee of the KBL with all its perquisites of power. On May 13, 1984, the bitter contest between the two came to a head when several followers of the petitioner were ambushed and killed, allegedly by the latter’s men. Seven suspects, including respondent Pacificador, are now facing trial for these murders. Petitioner went to the Commission on Elections to question the canvass of the election returns. His complaints were dismissed and the private respondent was proclaimed winner by the Second Division of the said body. The petitioner thereupon came to this Court, arguing that the proclamation was void because it was only made by a division and not by the Commission on Elections en banc as required by the Constitution. Meanwhile, the private respondent took his oath as a member of the Batasang Pambansa. The case was still being considered by this Court when the petitioner was gunned down.


Whether or not the Second Division of the Commission on Elections isauthorized to promulgate its decision proclaiming the private respondent the winner in the election


The applicable provisions are found in Article XII-C, Sections 2 and 3, of the 1973 Constitution. As the Court sees it, the effect of this interpretation would be to divide the jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections into two.: (1) over matters arising before the proclamation, which should be heard and decided by division in the exercise of its administrative power; and (2) over matters arising after the proclamation, which could be heard and decided only en banc in the exercise of its judicial power. Stated otherwise, the Commission as a whole could not act as sole judge as long as one of its divisions was hearing a pre-proclamation matter affecting the candidates for the Batasang Pambansa because there was as yet no contest; or to put it still another way, the Commission en banc could not do what one of its divisions was competent to do. Moreover, a mere division of the Commission on Elections could hear and decide, save only those involving the election, returns and qualifications of the members of the Batasang Pambansa, all cases involving elective provincial and city officials from start to finish, including pre-proclamation controversies and up to the election protest. In doing so, it would exercise first administrative and then judicial powers. But in the case of the Commission en banc, its jurisdiction would begin only after the proclamation was made and a contest was filed and not at any time and on any matter before that, and always in the exercise only of judicial power. All these came under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections insofar as they applied to the members of the defunct Batasang Pambansa and, under Article XII-C, Section 3, of the 1973 Constitution, could be heard and decided by it only en banc.

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