452 Phil. 438
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
By the assailed Resolution of August 3, 2001, the COMELEC En Banc granted the petition and disposed as follows:
1. This Honorable Commission has no jurisdiction to rule on this Petition because it was filed outside the mandatory periods for filing petitions of this nature and that there is no proof that proper filing and docketing fees have been paid.
2. The petitioner is not a proper party in filing this petition. The filing of this petition does not speak well of what the COMELEC stands for which is an impartial body and does not side any candidate or party.
3. The correction of manifest errors is proper only before proclamation of a winning candidate[;] after proclamation[,] the proper action is an election protest.
WHEREFORE, the premises considered, this Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to GRANT the instant petition requesting for authority to correct erroneous entries in the certificate of canvass of votes and proclamation of winning candidates for city offices in the City of Tanjay, Negros Oriental. The proclamation of herein respondent FELIX BAROT as the tenth (10th) winning candidate for the position of Member of Sangguniang Panlungsod of Tanjay City is hereby ordered SUSPENDED and/or if one has already been made, the same is hereby ordered ANNULED.By Resolution of August 21, 2001, this Court granted a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining the COMELEC and the BOC to cease and desist from implementing the assailed COMELEC Resolution of August 3, 2001.
ACCORDINGLY, the City Board of Canvassers of Tanjay City is hereby directed to RECONVENE and effect the necessary corrections in the Certificates of Canvass and Proclamation of Winning Candidates in the City of Tanjay and on the basis thereof PROCLAIM the winning candidates according to their ranks. (Underscoring supplied)
Hence, the present petition upon the following grounds:
1. The respondent COMELEC denied the petitioner his day in Court when it railroaded the hearing of the case in the Commission a quo. While it gave the petitioner the opportunity to be heard, the observance of due process was but a farce and diluted exercise.
2. This COMELEC had no jurisdiction to rule on the Petition filed by the City Board of Canvassers of Tanjay City because it was filed outside the mandatory periods for filing petitions of this nature and that there is no proof that proper filing and docketing fees have been paid.
3. The respondent City Board of Canvassers of Tanjay City is not a proper party in filing the original petition before the COMELEC. The filing of the petition [SPC-01-195] does not speak well of what the COMELEC stands for, which is an impartial body and does not side with any candidate or party.
4. The correction of manifest errors is proper only before proclamation of a winning candidate[;] after proclamation[,] the proper action is an election contest.
5. The private respondent Rolando Tabaloc has filed an Election Protest now docketed as EPC NO. 2001-51, this change of position of respondent Tabaloc should be construed as a tacit recognition of the due election of your petitioner Felix Barot.
SECTION 34. Manifest Error. — (a) Where it is clearly shown before proclamation that manifest errors were committed in the tabulation or the tallying of election returns, or certificates of canvass, during the canvassing, the Board may motu propio, or upon verified petition by any candidate, political party, organization or coalition of political parties, after due notice and hearing, correct the errors committed.Finally, petitioner posits that there is no proof that proper filing and docketing fees were paid, hence, the COMELEC did not acquire jurisdiction over the petition, and that Nochefranca is not among those who may file an action before the COMELEC, he citing Sections 2 and 3, Rule 5 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure which read:
There is manifest error in the tabulation or tallying of the results during canvassing where:
1. A copy of the Election Returns/Certificate of Canvass was tabulated more than once;
2. Two or more copies of the Election Returns of one precinct, or two or more copies of Certificate of Canvass of one city or municipality were tabulated;
3. There was a mistake in the copying of the figures from the Election Return/ Certificate of Canvass into the Statement of Votes;
4. Election Returns from non-existent precincts were included in the canvass for another district; or
5. There was a mistake in the addition of the votes of any candidate.
x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Section 2. Who may be parties. — Only natural or juridical persons or entities duly authorized by law, such as a voter, a candidate, or registered political parties, organization or coalition of political parties, including parties or organizations under the party list system, and any such person permitted by these Rules to bring an action or proceeding may be parties in any action or proceeding before the Commission.The present petition is bereft of merit.
Section 3. Parties in Interest. — All actions filed with the Commission must be prosecuted and defended in the name of the real party in interest. (Italics in the original)
Due process does not necessarily mean or require a hearing, but simply an opportunity or right to be heard. One may be heard, not solely by verbal presentation but also perhaps many times more creditably and predictable than oral argument, through pleadings.As to the claim that the petition was not filed within the reglementary period, it should be noted that the 5-day period to file a petition for correction may be done after proclamation as provided under paragraph (b), Section 5, Rule 27 of the COMELEC Rules:
x x x
The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard or as applied to administrative proceedings, an opportunity to explain one's side or an opportunity to seek reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. A formal or trial type hearing is not at all times and in all instances essential. The requirements are satisfied when the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy at hand. What is frowned upon is the absolute lack of notice or hearing. (Emphasis supplied; citations omitted)
Section 5. Pre-proclamation Controversies Which May Be Filed Directly with the Commission. —The petition may also be made before proclamation as provided in Section 34 of Resolution No. 3848 which furnishes instructions for the Municipal, City, District and Provincial Boards of Canvassers in connection with the May 14, 2001 national and local elections.
x x x
(b) If the petition involves the illegal composition or proceedings of the board under subparagraph (1) of paragraph (a) above, it must be filed immediately when the board begins to act as such, or at the time of the appointment of the member whose capacity to sit as such is objected to if it comes after the canvassing of the board, or immediately at the point where the proceedings are or begin to be illegal.
If the petition is for correction, it must be filed not later than five (5) days following the date of proclamation and must implead all candidates who may be adversely affected thereby.
x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Section 4. Suspension of the Rules. — In the interest of justice and in order to obtain speedy disposition of all the matters pending before the Commission, these rules or any portion thereof may be suspended by the Commission. (Italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring supplied)The COMELEC thus has the discretion to suspend its rules or any portion thereof in the interest of justice such that even if the petition was filed 12 days after the proclamation, the COMELEC may, in the interest of justice, disregard the reglementary periods provided by the rules and resolve the matter filed before it.
From the immediately-quoted COMELEC Rule, even assuming arguendo that the required fees were not paid, the COMELEC has the discretion to take action or not in a case. But even if it was not afforded such discretion, as discussed above, it can suspend its rules or any portion thereof in the interest of justice.
Rule 40 — Fees and Charges x x x
Section 8. Where fees are to be paid. — The fees herein before provided shall be paid by the party concerned to the Cash Division, Administrative Services Department of the Commission, at the time of request or demand. If the fees are not paid, the Commission may refuse to take action thereon until they are paid. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)