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754 Phil. 578


[ G.R. No. 206004, February 24, 2015 ]




The power of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to restrict a citizen's right of suffrage should not be arbitrarily exercised. The COMELEC cannot motu proprio deny due course to or cancel an alleged nuisance candidate's certificate of candidacy without providing the candidate his opportunity to be heard.

This is a Petition[1] for Certiorari with prayer for issuance of preliminary mandatory injunction against the following issuances of the COMELEC: first, Resolution No. 9610[2] dated January 11, 2013, declaring petitioner Joseph B. Timbol (Timbol) a nuisance candidate and ordering the removal of his name from the certified list of candidates;[3] and second, Minute Resolution[4] dated February 5, 2013, denying his Petition to have his name listed in the certified list of candidates and printed on the ballots for the May 13, 2013 elections.[5]

On October 5, 2012, Timbol filed a Certificate of Candidacy[6] for the position of Member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the Second District of Caloocan City. On January 15, 2013, he received a Subpoena[7] from COMELEC Election Officer Dinah A. Valencia (Election Officer Valencia), ordering him to appear before her office on January 17, 2013 for a clarificatory hearing in connection with his Certificate of Candidacy.[8]

Timbol, together with his counsel, appeared before Election Officer Valencia. During the clarificatory hearing, Timbol argued that he was not a nuisance candidate. He contended that in the 2010 elections, he ranked eighth among all the candidates who ran for Member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the Second District of Caloocan City. He allegedly had sufficient resources to sustain his campaign.[9]

He pointed out before the clarificatory hearing panel that his name already appeared in the list of nuisance candidates posted in the COMELEC website pursuant to Resolution No. 9610 dated January 11, 2013. The clarificatory hearing panel allegedly assured him that his name would be deleted from the list and that his Certificate of Candidacy would be given due course.[10]

In the Memorandum[11] dated January 17, 2013, Election Officer Valencia recommended that Timbol's Certificate of Candidacy be given due course.[12]

Despite Election Officer Valencia's favorable recommendation, Timbol's name was not removed from the list of nuisance candidates posted in the COMELEC's website. With the printing of ballots for the automated elections set on February 4, 2013, Timbol filed on February 2, 2013 a Petition[13] praying that his name be included in the certified list of candidates for the May 13, 2013 elections.[14]

In the Minute Resolution dated February 5, 2013, the COMELEC denied the Petition for being moot, considering that the printing of ballots had already begun.[15]

On March 15, 2013,[16] Timbol filed his Petition for Certiorari with this court, arguing that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in declaring him a nuisance candidate.[17] According to Timbol, the COMELEC deprived him of due process of law when he was declared a nuisance candidate even before Election Officer Valencia conducted the clarificatory hearing.[18] He prayed for a preliminary mandatory injunction ordering the COMELEC to include his name in the certified list of candidates for the position of Member of Sangguniang Panlungsod of the Second District of Caloocan City.[19]

In the Resolution[20] dated April 16, 2013, this court ordered the Office of the Solicitor General to comment on behalf of the COMELEC.

In its Comment,[21] the COMELEC argued that the Petition was already moot and academic, considering that the May 13, 2013 elections had already been conducted.[22]

Even assuming that the Petition was not moot and academic, the COMELEC maintained that it did not gravely abuse its discretion. Contrary to Timbol's argument, he was given an opportunity to be heard when Election Officer Valencia heard him during the clarificatory hearing. He even admitted that he attended the clarificatory hearing with his counsel.[23]

Moreover, the COMELEC did not gravely abuse its discretion in denying Timbol's Petition to be included in the certified list of candidates, considering that the printing of ballots had already started.[24]

With these arguments, the COMELEC prayed that this court deny the Petition for lack of merit.[25]

In the Resolution[26] dated August 6, 2013, this court ordered Timbol to file a reply. When Timbol failed to file his reply despite receipt of the order,[27] we required Atty. Jose Ventura Aspiras (Atty. Aspiras), counsel for Timbol, to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with for failing to file a reply on behalf of his client in the Resolution[28] dated September 2, 2014. We likewise reiterated our order for Atty. Aspiras to file a reply for Timbol.[29] Still, Atty. Aspiras failed to comply with our show cause resolution.

We dispense with the filing of the reply and resolve to decide this case based on the Petition and the Comment.

The issues for this court's resolution are the following:

First, whether this case is moot and academic; and

Second, whether respondent COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in denying petitioner Timbol's Petition for inclusion in the certified list of candidates.

We deny the Petition.


This case is moot and academic.

A case is moot and academic if it "ceases to present a justiciable controversy because of supervening events so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical use or value."[30] When a case is moot and academic, this court generally declines jurisdiction over it.[31]

There are recognized exceptions to this rule. This court has taken cognizance of moot and academic cases when:

(1) there was a grave violation of the Constitution; (2) the case involved a situation of exceptional character and was of paramount public interest; (3) the issues raised required the formulation of controlling principles to guide the Bench, the Bar and the public; and (4) the case was capable of repetition yet evading review.[32] (Citation omitted)

We may no longer act on petitioner's prayer that his name be included in the certified list of candidates and be printed on the ballots as a candidate for Member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod. Petitioner filed with this court his Petition for Certiorari on March 15, 2013, 39 days after respondent began printing the ballots on February 4, 2013. Also, the May 13, 2013 elections had been concluded, with the winners already proclaimed.

That this case is moot and academic, however, does not preclude us from setting forth "controlling and authoritative doctrines"[33] to be observed by respondent in motu proprio denying due course to or cancelling certificates of candidacy of alleged nuisance candidates. This motu proprio authority is always subject to the alleged nuisance candidate's opportunity to be heard[34] — an essential element of procedural due process.[35]


Respondent's power to motu proprio deny
due course to a certificate of candidacy is
subject to the candidate's opportunity to
be heard.

Under Article II, Section 26 of the Constitution, "[t]he State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service[.]" This, however, does not guarantee "a constitutional right to run for or hold public office[.]"[36] To run for public office is a mere "privilege subject to limitations imposed by law."[37] Among these limitations is the prohibition on nuisance candidates.

Nuisance candidates are persons who file their certificates of candidacy "to put the election process in mockery or disrepute or to cause confusion among the voters by the similarity of the names of the registered candidates or by other circumstances or acts which clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office for which the certificate of candidacy has been filed and thus prevent a faithful determination of the true will of the electorate."[38] In Pamatong v. Commission on Elections,[39] this court explained why nuisance candidates are prohibited from running for public office:

. . . The State has a compelling interest to ensure that its electoral exercises are rational, objective, and orderly. Towards this end, the State takes into account the practical considerations in conducting elections. Inevitably, the greater the number of candidates, the greater the opportunities for logistical confusion, not to mention the increased allocation of time and resources in preparation for the election. These practical difficulties should, of course, never exempt the State from the conduct of a mandated electoral exercise. At the same time, remedial actions should be available to alleviate these logistical hardships, whenever necessary and proper. Ultimately, a disorderly election is not merely a textbook example of inefficiency, but a rot that erodes faith in our democratic institutions. . . .

. . . The organization of an election with bona fide candidates standing is onerous enough. To add into the mix candidates with no serious intentions or capabilities to run a viable campaign would actually impair the electoral process. This is not to mention the candidacies which are palpably ridiculous so as to constitute a one-note joke. The poll body would be bogged by irrelevant minutiae covering every step of the electoral process, most probably posed at the instance of these nuisance candidates. It would be a senseless sacrifice on the part of the State.[40]

To minimize the logistical confusion caused by nuisance candidates, their certificates of candidacy may be denied due course or cancelled by respondent. This denial or cancellation may be "motu proprio or upon a verified petition of an interested party,"[41] "subject to an opportunity to be heard."[42]

The opportunity to be heard is a chance "to explain one's side or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of."[43] In election cases, due process requirements are satisfied "when the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy at hand."[44]

In Cipriano v. Commission on Elections,[45] this court explained:

[T]he determination whether a candidate is eligible for the position he is seeking involves a determination of fact where both parties must be allowed to adduce evidence in support of their contentions. Because the resolution of such fact may result to a deprivation of one's right to run for public office, or, as in this case, one's right to hold public office, it is only proper and fair that the candidate concerned be notified of the proceedings against him and that he be given the opportunity to refute the allegations against him. It should be stressed that it is not sufficient, as the COMELEC claims, that the candidate be notified of the Commission's inquiry into the veracity of the contents of his certificate of candidacy, but he must also be allowed to present his own evidence to prove that he possesses the qualifications for the office he seeks.[46]

Respondent commits grave abuse of discretion if it denies due course to or cancels a certificate of candidacy without affording the candidate an opportunity to be heard.[47]

Respondent declared petitioner a nuisance candidate without giving him a chance to explain his bona fide intention to run for office. Respondent had already issued Resolution No. 9610 on January 11, 2013 when petitioner appeared before Election Officer Valencia in a clarificatory hearing on January 17, 2013. This was an ineffective opportunity to be heard.

That petitioner was able to file a Petition for inclusion in the certified list of candidates did not cure the defect in the issuance of Resolution No. 9610. First, he would not have to file the Petition had been given an opportunity to be heard in the first place.  Second, in the Minute Resolution dated February 5, 2013, respondent denied petitioner's Petition on the sole ground that the printing of ballots had already begun on February 4, 2013.

We understand the "insurmountable and tremendous operational constraints and costs implications"[48] of reprinting ballots had respondent ordered the inclusion of petitioner's name in the certified list if candidates.  The ballots already printed would have to be recalled, leading to the waste of the ballots previously printed.  It should be noted that these ballots are special as the have the capability of being optically scanned by Precinct Count Optical Scan machines.  Reprinting another batch of ballots would, indeed, be costly.

Still, "automation is not the end-all and be-all of an electoral process."[49]  Respondent should also balance its duty "to ensure that the electoral process is clean, honest, orderly, and peaceful"[50] with the right of a candidate to explain his or her bona fide intention to run for public office before he or she is declared a nuisance candidate.


Counsel for petitioner must be fined for
failure to comply with the Show Cause
Resolution dated September 2, 2014.

Atty. Aspiras, counsel for petitioner, failed to obtain the injunctive reliefs prayed for in time for the May 13, 2013 elections.  However, this was no reason for him to defy our orders to file a reply on behalf of his client.  for such contumacious acts, he should be ordered to show cause why he should not be proceeded with administratively.

WHEREFORE, this Petition for Certiorari is DENIED for being moot and academic.

Moreover, Atty. Jose Ventura Aspiras is ORDERED to show cause within a non-extendible period of ten (10) days from receipt of this Resolution why he should not be the subject of administrative actions for his contumacious attitude towards repeated orders of this court, specifically, for his failure to comply with the Resolutions dated August 6, 2013 and September 2, 2013.  The action against Atty. Jose Ventura Aspiras will be docketed as a new and separate administrative case.

Let a copy of this decision be given to the Office of the Bar Confidant for the initiation of the proper disciplinary action against Atty. Jose Ventura Aspiras.


Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Villarama, Jr., Perez, Mendoza, Reyes, and Perlas-Bernabe, JJ., concur.
Brion, J., on leave,
Jardeleza, J., no part.



Please take notice that on ___February 24, 2015___ a Decision/Resolution, copy attached herewith, was rendered by the Supreme Court in the above-entitled case, the original of which was received by this Office on April 1, 2015 at 9:07 a.m.

Very truly yours,

Clerk of Court

[1] Rollo, pp. 3-9. This Petition was filed under Rule 64 in relation to Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.

[2] Id. at 12-17.

[3] Id. at 14 and 16.

[4] Id. at 18-19.

[5] Id. at 19.

[6] Id. at 23.

[7] Id. at 24.

[8] Id. at 4.

[9] Id. at 4-5.

[10] Id. at 5.

[11] Id. at 30-34.

[12] Id. at 34.

[13] Id. at 35-37.

[14] Id. at 35-36.

[15] Id. at 19.

[16] Id. at 3.

[17] Id. at 6-7.

[18] Id.

[19] Id. at 8.

[20] Id. at 38.

[21] Id. at 44-55.

[22] Id. at 49.

[23] Id. at 52.

[24] id. at 53.

[25] Id. at 54.

[26] Id. at 57.

[27] Id. at 60-61.

[28] Id. at 67.

[29] Id.

[30] COCOFED-Philippine Coconut Producers Federation, Inc. v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 207026, August 6, 2013, 703 SCRA 165, 175 [Per J. Brion, En Banc].

[31] Baldo, Jr. v. Commission on Elections, 607 Phil. 281, 286-287 (2009) [Per J. Chico-Nazario, En Banc]; Garcia v. Commission on Elections, 328 Phil. 288, 292 (1996) [Per J. Francisco, En Banc]; De la Victoria v. Commission on Elections, 276 Phil. 610 (1991) [Per J. Grino-Aquino, En Bane]. Alliance for Rural and Agrarian Reconstruction, Inc. v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 192803, December 10, 2013, 712 SCRA 54, 75-76 [Per J. Leonen, En Banc].

[33] De la Camara v. Enage, 148-B Phil. 502, 504 (1971) [Per J. Fernando, En Banc].

[34] COMELEC RULES OF PROCEDURE, rule 24, sec. 4, as amended by COMELEC Resolution No. 9523.

[35] See De la Camara v. Enage, 148-B Phil. 502, 504 (1971) [Per J. Fernando, En Banc], where the court, despite the case being moot and academic, proceeded to set forth "controlling and authoritative doctrines" for the guidance of lower courts in fixing the amount of bail "in order that full respect be accorded to such a constitutional right."

[36] Pamatong v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 161872, April 13, 2004, 427 SCRA 96, 100 [Per J. Tinga, En Banc].

[37] Id.

[38] ELECTION CODE, sec. 69.

[39] G.R. No. 161872, April 13, 2004, 427 SCRA 96 [Per J. Tinga, En Banc].

[40] Id. at 104-105.

[41] ELECTION CODE, sec. 69.

[42] COMELEC RULES OF PROCEDURE, rule 24, sec. 4, as amended by COMELEC Resolution No. 9523.

[43] Trinidad v. Commission on Elections, 373 Phil. 802, 811 (1999) [Per J. Ynares-Sahtiago, En Banc], citing Paat v. Court of Appeals, 334 Phil. 146, 156 (1997) [Per J. Torres, Jr., Second Division], in turn citing Navarro III v. Damasco, 316 Phil. 322, 328 (1995) [Per J. Quiason, First Division].

[44] Id.

[45] 479 Phil. 677 (2004) [Per J. Puno, En Banc].

[46] Id. at 691.

[47] See Cipriano v. Commission on Elections, 479 Phil. 677, 689-690 (2004) [Per J. Puno, En Banc].

[48] Philippine Guardians Brotherhood, Inc. v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190529, March 22, 2011, 646 SCRA 63, 71 [Per J. Brion, En Banc].

[49] Id. at 80

[50] Ciprano v. Commission on Elections, 479 Phil. 677, 687-688 (2004) [Per J. Puno, En Banc].

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