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468 Phil. 130


[ G.R. No. 157687, February 26, 2004 ]


G.R. NO. 158959.




The Case

Before us are two (2) consolidated petitions for certiorari[1] with prayers for temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.  In G.R. No. 157687, petitioner Fernando U. Batul (“Batul”) assails the Orders dated 12 February 2003 and 21 March 2003 of the Commission on Elections (“COMELEC”) First Division[2] in Election Protest Case No. 2001-19 (“EPC No. 2001-19”).  In G.R. No. 158959, Batul challenges the Order and Writ of Execution dated 21 July 2003 also issued by the COMELEC First Division in the same case.

The Antecedents

Batul and respondent Lucilo R. Bayron (“Bayron”) were candidates for vice-mayor of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan in the 14 May 2001 elections.  The Board of Canvassers of Puerto Princesa City credited Batul with 18,095 votes and Bayron with  15,810 votes.  The Board of Canvassers thus proclaimed Batul vice-mayor of Puerto Princesa City on 21 May 2001.

On 29 May 2001, Bayron filed an election protest with the  COMELEC  docketed as EPC No. 2001-19.   Bayron protested the election results in the 392 precincts of Puerto Princesa City, claiming that anomalies and irregularities marred the conduct of the elections. Batul filed an Answer with Counter-Protest and Counterclaim denying all the material allegations in Bayron’s protest.  Batul claimed that it was Bayron who committed fraud and other irregularities in the protested precincts.

In an Order dated 14 September 2001, the COMELEC First Division considered the issues joined, directed Bayron to pay the deposit for the revision of ballots; and ordered both parties to submit their respective pool of revisors.  The COMELEC First Division also directed Palawan’s provincial election supervisor to coordinate with Puerto Princesa’s city treasurer in the inventory of the ballot boxes subject of the protest and counter-protest.  The COMELEC First Division further instructed the provincial election supervisor to insure the safety and security of the ballot boxes prior to their delivery to the COMELEC office in Manila.

On 12 November 2001, the COMELEC First Division constituted four (4) Revision Committees to conduct the revision of ballots of all the protested precincts.  After termination of the revision proceedings on 12 December 2001, the Revision Committees submitted their respective reports to the COMELEC First Division on 30 April 2002.

Bayron filed his formal Offer of Evidence which included the Final Reports of the 4  Revision Committees and a summary tabulation showing him with 17,248 votes against Batul’s 16,581 votes or a winning margin of 667 votes.  Batul filed his Comment/Opposition to respondent Bayron’s Offer of Evidence.  On 10 June 2002, the COMELEC First Division admitted Bayron’s exhibits.

The COMELEC First Division directed Batul to present his evidence on 29 July 2002.  On this date, Batul presented as his first witness,  Board of Election Inspectors (“BEI”) chairperson Brenda Landicho (“Landicho”).  Landicho testified that some ballots do not bear her signature as BEI chairperson.  Batul filed a motion to allow him to present 49 more BEI chairpersons to testify on the genuineness of the signatures of the BEI chairpersons on the revised ballots.  

On 12 February 2003, the COMELEC First Division issued the first assailed order (“First Order”) denying Batul’s motion to allow fifty (50) BEI chairpersons to testify on the signatures appearing at the back of the ballots from the precincts where “reversals” were found during revision.  The First Order disposed as follows:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Protestee’s presentation of the testimonies of the fifty (50) BEI Chairpersons is hereby DENIED for the reasons discussed above, it appearing that the Protestee has no other evidence to present  other than the above-mentioned fifty (50) BEI Chairpersons, he is directed to file his Formal Offer of Evidence within five (5) days from receipt hereof.  Protestant shall file his “Comment”  on Protestee’s Formal Offer of Evidence within three (3) days from receipt thereof.  Thereafter, the Commission (First Division) shall issue a Ruling on Protestee’s Formal Offer of Evidence and both parties shall have a non-extendible period of fifteen (15) days from receipt of the Ruling to file their respective Memorandum.  After the lapse of the given period, with or without the Memoranda, the instant case shall be deemed submitted for Resolution.

On 19 February 2002, Batul filed a motion to reconsider the First Order.  The COMELEC First Division issued the second assailed order dated 21 March 2003 denying petitioner Batul’s motion for reconsideration (“Second Order”).[4]

Batul filed his formal Offer of Evidence with Tender of Excluded Evidence on 31 March 2003.  Batul pointed out that the 50 BEI chairpersons would have testified on the genuineness of the signatures appearing at the back of the revised ballots where “there were discrepancies between the election returns and the tally sheets on one hand, and the physical count of the ballots during revision on the other.”  Bayron filed his Comment/Objections to Batul’s Offer of Evidence.  On 11 April 2003, the COMELEC First Division admitted Batul’s exhibits.

The COMELEC First Division deemed the case submitted for resolution after Bayron filed his memorandum on 29 April 2003 and Batul filed his memorandum on 30 April 2003.

On 11 April 2003, Batul filed the first Petition for Certiorari assailing the validity of the Orders dated 12 February 2003 and 21 March 2003 issued by the COMELEC First Division in EPC No. 2001-19, docketed as G.R.  No. 157687.  Batul contends it was grave abuse of discretion for the COMELEC First Division to deny his right to present the 50 BEI chairpersons as witnesses.

During the pendency of G.R. No. 157687, the COMELEC First Division decided the merits of EPC No. 2001-19 in its Resolution dated 2 July 2003, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission (First Division) RESOLVED as it hereby RESOLVES to ANNUL and SET ASIDE the 21 May 2001 proclamation of FERNANDO U. BATUL as Vice-Mayor of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

ACCORDINGLY, the Commission (First Division) hereby  ORDERS:
a.  Protestee Vice-Mayor Fernando U.  Batul  to vacate the Office of the Vice-Mayor, Puerto  Princesa City, Palawan, and to cease and desist from performing the functions of said office.

b.  The Deputy Executive Director of the Commission to implement this Resolution and to furnish a copy thereof  to the Office of the President of the Philippines, the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Office of the Governor, Palawan, and to the Office of the Secretary of the  local Sangguniang Panglungsod, Palawan.
No pronouncement as to costs.[5]
Batul filed a motion to reconsider the 2 July 2003 Resolution.  In the meantime, Bayron filed a motion for immediate execution of judgment on 3 July 2003 which Batul opposed.  The motion was heard on 14 July 2003.  The COMELEC First Division issued the Order dated 21 July 2003 granting immediate execution of judgment.  The Order reads:
WHEREFORE, there being merits in the Motion, the same is GRANTED.  In order to implement the Resolution of the Commission in the above-entitled case, the Clerk of the Commission (Director IV, ECAD) is hereby DIRECTED to immediately issue a WRIT OF EXECUTION ordering FERNANDO U. BATUL to CEASE and DESIST from discharging the powers and duties of the Office of Vice-Mayor of Puerto Princesa City and to relinquish the same to and in favor of LUCILO BAYRON who was declared duly elected to the post in the Resolution pending the final disposition of the Motion for Reconsideration filed by Protestee in the above-entitled case.  Protestant however is ordered to post a bond in the amount of FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS  which shall  answer for whatever damage protestee will sustain by reason of this execution if the final resolution of the protest would decide that the protestant is not entitled thereto.  This Order is immediately executory.[6]
The COMELEC First Division issued a writ of execution on the same date.  Hence, Bayron took his oath and assumed the position of vice-mayor of Puerto Princesa City on 22 July 2003.

On 25 July 2003, Batul filed the second  Petition for Certiorari, assailing this time the 2 July 2003 Order and the writ of execution (“Execution Orders”) issued by the COMELEC First Division, docketed as G.R. No. 158959.

The Court resolved to consolidate G.R. Nos. 157687 and 158959 on 5 August 2003.

The COMELEC’s Ruling

The COMELEC First Division disallowed the presentation of the testimonies of the BEI chairpersons for the following reasons:
It cannot be denied that Rule 17, Section 2 of the COMELEC Rules of  Procedure explicitly provides that Protestee be given opportunity to present  evidence in support of  his defense.

However, our Rules of Court  mandate that the purpose/s for which testimony of any witnesses (sic) is being offered must be relevant to the specific allegation in the answer and or counter protest of the Protestee and that the presentation of the intended evidence  can be directly or indirectly covered.  Indeed, no such issue which would warrant the presentation of the testimony of the said fifty (50) Chairpersons was raised in the Protestee’s pleading.

The rule in an election protest is that the Protestant or counter-Protestant must stand or fall upon the issues he had raised in his original or amended pleadings filed prior to the lapse of the statutory  period  for filing protest or counter-protest.

In the case of Arroyo vs. HRET et al., 246 SCRA 384-385 it was held:
“a party is bound by the theory he adopts and by the cause he stands on  and cannot be permitted after having lost thereon to repudiate his theory and cause of action and adopt another and seek to re-litigate the matter anew either in the same forum or on appeal.  This is in essence putting private respondent i[n] estoppel to question the revision.”
In this connection, let it be stressed that per records, the Protestee  never protested  or assailed on record the signatures of the BEI Chairman in all the precincts where there is reversal of ballots in favor of Protestant.  Neither had the three (3) counsels of Protestee or their representatives assailed or protested in writing the signatures of any BEI Chairman during the revision and/or directly before this Honorable Commission.

It is therefore evident that Protestee is now barred or estopped in questioning the final report of the Committees on Revision on a matter of theory not alleged in  his answer.

Hence, the following jurisprudence is applicable as held in the  case of Huerta Alba Resort, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, 39 SCRA 531, 555:
“The failure of petitioner to seasonably assert its alleged right  under Section 78 of R.A. No. 337 precludes it from doing at this late stage of the case.  Estoppel may be successfully invoked if the party fails to raise the question in the early stages of the proceedings.”[7]
In denying Batul’s motion for reconsideration, the COMELEC First Division ruled:
xxx  “in an election contest where the correctness of the number of votes is involved, the best evidence and the  most  conclusive evidence are the ballots themselves.”  There is no need to present evidence aliunde particularly in this case where the protestee’s main arguments in filing his Motion are the alleged “multiple substitution” of ballots and “that the contents of the ballot box had been tampered with and compromised.”  These matters can be determined by the Commission itself by conducting an examination of the ballots.  In Punzalan vs. Comelec, the Supreme Court ruled that “it is axiomatic that the COMELEC need not conduct an adversarial proceeding or a hearing to determine the authenticity of ballots or the handwriting found thereon, and neither does it need to solicit the help of handwriting experts in examining or comparing the handwriting.[8]
The COMELEC First Division granted Bayron’s motion for immediate execution of judgment applying Section 2, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court which allows discretionary execution of judgment upon good reasons stated in the order.  The COMELEC First Division found that the requirements for valid execution pending appeal as set forth in Ramas v. COMELEC[9] were complied with in the case, namely:  (1) the will of the electorate is involved; (2) the shortness of the remaining portion of the term of the contested office; and (3) the length of time that the election contest has been pending.

The Issues

In G.R. No. 157687, Batul contends that the COMELEC First Division acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in (1) issuing the 12 February 2003 and 21 March 2003 Orders denying Batul’s right to present evidence on his behalf; and (2) considering the case submitted for resolution without giving Batul the opportunity to present testimonial (and other evidence) on his behalf, in violation of his right to due process.

In G.R. No. 158959, Batul contends that the COMELEC First Division issued the 21 July 2003 Order executing its Decision despite his pending motion for reconsideration in violation of COMELEC Rules of Procedure and contrary to applicable jurisprudence.

The Court’s Ruling

The petitions are bereft of merit.

G.R. No. 157687

Right to Present Evidence and Due Process

Batul contends that the COMELEC First Division denied his right to due process when it barred him from presenting the testimonies of the 50 BEI chairpersons.  Batul claims that the COMELEC First Division violated Section 2, Rule 17 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, which provides in pertinent parts:
Sec. 2.  Order of Hearing. — Unless the Commission or the Division, as the case may be, for special reasons, directs otherwise, the order of hearing shall be as follows:

(a)  The petitioner or protestant shall present evidence on his part;

(b)  The protestant-in-intervention, if any, shall present evidence on his  part;

(c)  The respondent or protestee shall then offer evidence in support  of his defense or counter-protest, if any;

x x x. (Emphasis supplied)
According to Batul, the testimonies of the BEI chairpersons would have proven that  there was multiple substitution of ballots after the election and that many of the ballots found during revision were spurious as they do not bear the BEI chairpersons’ signatures.  The BEI chairpersons’ testimony on the authenticity of the signatures and genuineness of the ballots is material, relevant and necessary for a judicious resolution of the case.  Batul claims it is in precincts chaired by these 50 teachers that discrepancies were found during revision between the election returns and the tally board as against the physical count of ballots in ballot boxes with allegedly missing self-locking seals.

These arguments do not persuade us. 

First, Batul’s reliance on Section 2, Rule 17 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure in asserting his alleged right to present the testimonies of the 50 BEI chairpersons is not supported by Section 2 of Rule 17.  A reasonable reading of Section 2, Rule 17 shows that it is merely directory and confers upon the COMELEC the discretion to change the order of hearing for special reasons.  This is in keeping with the nature of election contests, which unlike ordinary civil actions, are clothed with public interest.[10] The purpose of an election protest is to ascertain whether the candidate proclaimed by the board of canvassers is the lawful choice of the people.  What is sought is the correction of the canvass of votes, which was the basis of proclamation of the winning candidate.

Election contests, therefore, involve the adjudication not only of private and pecuniary interests of rival candidates, but also of paramount public interest considering the need to dispel uncertainty over the real choice of the electorate.[11] The COMELEC First Division correctly exercised its discretion in refusing to hear all 50 BEI chairpersons, as this would not have been feasible and practical given the remaining time until the next election.  Procedural rules in elections cases are designed to achieve not only a correct but also an expeditious determination of the popular will of the electorate.[12]

Second, a formal trial-type hearing is not at all times and in all situations essential to due process.  It is enough that the parties are given a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their respective sides of the controversy and to present evidence on which a fair decision can be based.[13] Batul was in fact given an opportunity to substantiate his charge of multiple substitution of ballots at the hearing where BEI chairperson Landicho testified.  Batul also submitted an exhaustive memorandum to support his charge. Verily, “to be heard” does not only mean presentation of testimonial evidence in court. One may also be heard through pleadings and where opportunity to be heard through pleadings is accorded, there is no denial of due process.[14]

Third, the COMELEC First Division did not brush aside Batul’s apprehensions that there was a violation of the sanctity of the ballots.  The COMELEC First Division ruled that the ballots exhibit the properties of official ballots as defined in Section 181 of the Omnibus Election Code.[15] The COMELEC also stated that it could readily determine whether the ballots are official and genuine by merely inspecting the secret security marks attached to the ballots.   Without a doubt, the COMELEC First Division assiduously scrutinized and re-examined the ballots from the protested precincts to determine for itself their validity and to faithfully ascertain the will of the electorate.  The COMELEC First Division explained as follows:
Declaring the ballots genuine is one thing. Admitting them as valid expression of the electorate’s will is another. To put to rest  suspicions that the ballots were fraudulently prepared then illegally placed into the ballot boxes, the Commission (FIRST DIVISION) looked for badges of violation of the integrity of the ballot boxes.  We went over the revision reports to ascertain whether or not the revision committees, of which protestee’s revisor is a member recorded any observation of anomaly or irregularity in the condition of the ballots boxes presented for revision.  The revision committees’ reported that the condition of the ballot boxes were “good”; that security seals were attached to the inner lids of the ballot boxes, the envelopes containing the documents were  with paper seals,  and the election paraphernalia were intact and undisturbed.

The statements of the Chairmen of the Board of Election Inspectors that the signatures on the several ballots are not theirs, cannot be fully relied upon.  Their affidavits could even be considered self-serving.  Indeed, We examined  the signatures appearing at the back of the ballots and we did not  find distinct variations thereon which could lead us into concluding that the signatures were forged.  As had been shown in many instances, the signature of a person does not always appear to be similar under all circumstances.  The possibility is not remote that what the Chairmen of the Board of Election Inspectors perceived as variant strokes and styles were but the signs of stress and exhaustion from the strenuous repeated acts of signing.

Under these circumstances, we can not subscribe to protestee’s stand that the “physical count cannot prevail and must yield to the actual votes indicated and duly certified in the  election returns and the tally sheet.”

As held in Lerias vs. HRET, it is only “when the ballots cannot be produced or are not available”  that  “the election returns would be the best evidence.

In the case at bench, the ballots are available, hence they serve as the primary evidence of the results of the elections in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  This finding notwithstanding, the Commission conducted a meticulous examination of each and every contested ballots, admit those which pass the tests of validity and set aside those which bear badges of aberration.  Indeed, the Commission ruled on these ballots in accordance with the same procedure adopted for all the contested ballots of the protested precincts.[16]
Finally, what spells finis to any further pretensions of Batul that the COMELEC denied him due process is his mistaken notion that evidence aliunde is necessary to prove substituted or fake ballots.  We have repeatedly ruled that the ballots are the best evidence of the objections raised and an inspection of these ballots is sufficient.[17] Moreover, there is no better authority than the COMELEC itself to determine the authenticity of the ballots, having itself ordered and supervised the printing of all the official ballots.[18]

G.R. No. 158959

    Valid Execution Pending Appeal

Batul contends the COMELEC First Division violated its own rules of procedure in allowing immediate execution of its judgment despite the filing of his motion for reconsideration with the COMELEC en banc.  Batul points out that Section 2, Rule 19[19] of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure provides that the filing of a motion for reconsideration that is not pro forma, suspends the execution or implementation of the decision. Further, Section 5 of Rule 19[20] also provides that the COMELEC Division shall, within two days from the filing of the motion for reconsideration, certify the case to the COMELEC en banc.  The COMELEC Division thus loses jurisdiction over the case upon the filing of the aggrieved party’s motion for reconsideration. Lastly, the COMELEC cannot issue an order granting immediate execution of a judgment that has not yet become final and executory citing Section 13(c), Rule 19[21] of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure.

Batul likewise contends that Ramas v. COMELEC[22] and Santos v. COMELEC[23] cited by the COMELEC First Division to justify execution pending appeal are not applicable to the instant case since the election protests in those cases involved municipal officials and were filed with the Regional Trial Court (“RTC”).  It was logical to apply Section 2, Rule 39 (“Section 2”) of the Rules of Court  because the decision sought to be executed was that of the RTC. On the other hand, the instant case involves a city mayoralty position and the election protest is originally and exclusively lodged with the COMELEC.  Section 2 cannot be applied even in a suppletory way, because the COMELEC Rules of Procedure expressly provide the proper procedure.  Under the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, the only ground that will validly sustain execution of a decision by a COMELEC Division pending reconsideration is when the motion for reconsideration is pro forma.

These contentions are unavailing.

It is true that present election laws are silent on the remedy of execution pending appeal in election contests.  However, neither Ramas nor Santos declared that such remedy is exclusive to election contests involving elective barangay and municipal officials as argued by Batul.   Section 2 allowing execution pending appeal in the discretion of the court applies in a suppletory manner to election cases, including those involving city and provincial officials.   Ramas itself explained:
As to election cases involving regional, provincial, and city officials, which fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the COMELEC, Section 3 of Article IX-C of the Constitution vests the COMELEC with the authority to promulgate its rules of procedure in order to expedite disposition of election cases, including pre-proclamation controversies.  Additionally, Section 52(c), Article VII of the Omnibus Election Code empowers the COMELEC to promulgate rules and regulations implementing the provisions of the Code or other laws which it is required to enforce and administer.  Accordingly, the COMELEC promulgated the COMELEC Rules of Procedure.  Section 1 of Rule 41 thereof expressly provides that “[i]n the absence of any applicable provision in [said] Rules, the pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court in the Philippines shall be
applicable by analogy or in a suppletory character and effect.” (Emphasis supplied)

There is no reason why the public policy underlying the suppletory application of Section 2  —  to obviate a hollow victory for the duly elected candidate as determined by either the courts or the COMELEC  —  should not apply with equal force to election contests involving city and provincial officials.[24] Indeed, the number of constituents and the territorial scope over which these officials govern underscore the importance of this policy.  Something had to be done to strike the death blow at the “pernicious grab-the-proclamation-prolong-the-protest” technique often, if not invariably, resorted to by unscrupulous politicians who would negate the people’s verdict against them and persist in continuing in an office they very well know they have no legitimate right to hold.[25]

As we have held before, only a more compelling contrary policy consideration can prevent the suppletory application of Section 2.   The primary reason advanced by Batul  —  that Section 2 does not apply to election contests involving city, provincial and regional officials, simply because these cases are originally cognizable by the COMELEC  —  cannot negate this public policy.   Such a reason cannot frustrate or further delay the assumption of public office by the lawful choice of the people as determined by the COMELEC.  Batul did not contest the good reasons cited by the COMELEC First Division in granting immediate execution.  Hence, we see no reason to discuss the COMELEC’S findings on this matter.

In sum, the Court holds that the COMELEC First Division did not commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed orders. Grave abuse of discretion implies capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment amounting to lack of jurisdiction, or arbitrary and despotic exercise of power because of passion or personal hostility.  The grave abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion or refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law.[26] This does not obtain in the instant petitions.

WHEREFORE, the petitions are DISMISSED for lack of merit.


Davide, Jr., C.J., Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.

Puno, J., on leave.

[1] Under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

[2] Erroneously designated as Second Division in Fernando U. Batul’s petition in G.R. No. 157687.

[3] Rollo of G.R. No. 157687, pp. 25-28.

[4] Ibid., pp. 29-31.

[5] Rollo of G.R. No. 158959, pp. 43-59.

[6] Ibid., pp. 32-36.

[7] Rollo of G.R. No. 157687, pp. 25-28.

[8] Ibid., pp. 29-31.

[9] G.R. No. 130831, 10 February 1998, 286 SCRA 189.

[10] Gementiza v. COMELEC,  G.R. No. 140884, 6 March 2001, 353 SCRA 724.

[11] Barroso v. Hon. Ampig, Jr., 385 Phil. 237 (2000).

[12] Gementiza, supra, see note 10.

[13] Melendres, Jr.  v. COMELEC, 377 Phil. 275 (1999).

[14] Ibid.

[15] Sec. 181. Official ballots  —  Ballots for national and local offices shall be of uniform size and color and shall be provided at public expense.  They shall be printed on paper with watermarks or  ballot paper from ordinary paper.  Each ballot shall be in the shape of a strip with stub and detachable coupon containing the serial number of the ballot, and a space for the thumb mark of the voter on the detachable coupon.  It shall bear at the top on the middle portion thereof the coat of arms of the Republic of the Philippines, the words “Official Ballot”, the name of the city or municipality and province    in which the election is held, the date of the election, and the following notice:  “Fill out this ballot secretly inside the voting booth.  Do not put any distinctive mark on any part of this ballot.”

[16] Rollo of G.R. No. 158959, pp. 43-59.

[17] Bocobo v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 94173, 21 November 1990, 191 SCRA 576.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Sec. 2.  Period for Filing Motions for Reconsideration. — A motion to reconsider a decision, resolution, order, or ruling of a Division shall be filed within five (5) days from the promulgation thereof.  Such motion, if not pro forma, suspends the execution or implementation of the decision, resolution, order or ruling.

[20] Sec. 5. How Motion for Reconsideration Disposed Of. — Upon the filing of a motion to reconsider a decision, resolution, order, or ruling of a Division, the Clerk of Court concerned shall, within twenty-four (24) hours from the filing thereof, notify the presiding Commissioner.  The latter shall within two (2) days thereafter certify the case to the Commission en banc.

[21] Sec. 13(c).  Unless a motion for reconsideration is  seasonably filed, a decision or resolution of  a Division shall  become final and executory after the lapse of five (5) days in Special actions and Special cases and after fifteen (15) days in all other actions or proceedings, following its promulgation.

[22] Supra, see note 9.

[23] G.R. No. 155618, 26 March 2003.

[24] Navarosa v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 157957, 18 September 2003.

[25] Gahol v. Riodique, G.R. No. L-40415, 27 June 1975, 64 SCRA 494.

[26] Navarosa, supra, see note 24.

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