408 Phil. 511

EN BANC

[ G.R. No. 145802, April 04, 2001 ]

DOMINADOR T. BELAC, PETITIONER, VS. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS AND ROMMEL DIASEN, RESPONDENTS.

D E C I S I O N

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

This is a petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, assailing the Resolutions dated February 22, 2000 and November 16, 2000 of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) en banc in SPC  No. 98-170.

The facts as shown by the records are:

Rommel Diasen of the LAMMP and Dominador Belac of the LAKAS-NUCD were candidates for governor in the province of Kalinga during the May 11, 1998 national and local elections.

On May 14, 1998, the Provincial Board of Canvassers started to canvass the results of the election.

On May 15, 1998, when the Certificate of Canvass and Statement of Votes for the municipality of Pinukpuk were scheduled for canvassing, Diasen objected to the inclusion of the election returns of 42 precincts in the said municipality.

On May 19, 1998, Diasen also questioned the inclusion of the election returns of 28 precincts of the town of Tinglayan.

Within twenty-four (24) hours therefrom, Diasen filed with the Kalinga Provincial Board of Canvassers a petition for exclusion of the Certificates of Canvass and Statements of Votes for Pinukpuk and Tinglayan, alleging in the main that:

1.  The Certificates of Canvass and Statements of Votes were not prepared by the Board of Election Inspectors as the same were not signed by the respective watchers for the candidates' political parties.

2.  There were discrepancies in the tally of votes.  The official LAMMP copies of the official returns have a lesser number of votes than those appearing in the Statements of Votes for the said municipalities.

However, the Provincial Board of Canvassers proceeded to include in its canvass the results as stated in the election returns for Pinukpuk. On Diasen's objection to the inclusion of the election returns for Tinglayan, the Board ruled that it will only issue a certificate of correction since the discrepancies were caused by mere error in indicating the entries.

On May 19, 1998, the Provincial Board of Canvassers proclaimed Belac as the duly elected governor for the province of Kalinga.

On May 21, 1998, Diasen appealed to the COMELEC (First Division) from the rulings of the Provincial Board of Canvassers.

On June 4, 1998, the COMELEC (First Division) issued a Resolution dismissing Diasen's appeal for lack of merit, thus:

"Wherefore, premises considered, the appeal is hereby dismissed for lack of merit.  The rulings of the Provincial Board of Canvassers on the petition for exclusion of Certificate of Canvass and Statement of Votes are hereby affirmed.  The Provincial Board of Canvassers for Kalinga is hereby directed to reconvene and continue with the canvassing with reasonable dispatch and proclaim the winning candidate if the votes from the four precincts of Tinglayan, Kalinga where there was failure of elections would not materially affect the results of the election.

"Considering that the records of the case show that additions in the COCs and SOVs of Pinukpuk for the votes of gubernatorial candidate Dominador Belac were made, the Law Department is directed to conduct a preliminary investigation for the commission of an election offense against the members of the Municipal Board of Canvassers of Pinukpuk, Kalinga.

"The Law Department is similarly directed to conduct an immediate investigation on the possible commission of electoral fraud as alluded to in the ultimate paragraph before the herein dispositive portion. The Election Officer of Pinukpuk is directed immediately to cause the transfer of the Book of Voters for the 69 precincts of Pinukpuk to the Comelec Main Office [c/o Law Department] for this purpose."

On June 19, 1998, Diasen filed a motion for reconsideration of the above Resolution which was elevated to the COMELEC en banc.

While the said motion was pending resolution in the COMELEC en banc, the Chairman of the Provincial Board of Canvassers, Atty. Nicasio Aliping, convened the Board by calling the two other members in order to proclaim Belac as the new governor. But the two members declined, so only Atty. Aliping proceeded with Belac's proclamation.

On June 28, 1998, Diasen filed with the COMELEC a separate petition (SPC No. 98-291) to dispute the proclamation of Belac.

Meanwhile, on February 22, 2000, or almost two years after the filing of Diasen's motion for reconsideration on June 19, 1998, the COMELEC en banc promulgated  the first assailed  Resolution modifying the ruling of the First Division, thus:

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the resolution of the Commission (First Division) subject of the instant Motion for Reconsideration is hereby modified as follows:

"1) The Provincial Board of Canvassers for Kalinga is hereby directed to proceed with the canvassing of votes for the office of the provincial governor deducting from the Certificates of Canvass of the Municipalities of Tinglayan and Pinukpuk the votes reflected on the election returns from the above-excluded precincts and thereafter proclaim the winning candidate for governor;

"2) The directive to the Law Department to conduct appropriate investigations is affirmed with the modification, however, that the Board of Election Inspectors concerned for the municipalities of Pinukpuk and Tinglayan, as well as John Does, be likewise investigated for possible collusion in the commission of the election offense and election anomaly, subject of petitioner's case."

The above Resolution was penned by Commissioner Manolo Gorospe, concurred in by Commissioners Japal Guiani and Luzviminda Tancangco. Chairman Harriet Demetriou and Commissioner Julio Desamito joined Commissioner Teresita Dy-liacco Flores in her dissent.  In short, the voting was 3-3.

In view of the results of the voting, Belac filed a motion praying that the COMELEC en banc desist from implementing the February 22, 2000 Resolution in favor of Diasen, citing Section 6, Rule 18 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure.[1] The COMELEC granted the motion in its February 24, 2000 order and set the re-hearing on March 9, 2000.

On February 28, 2000, pursuant to the COMELEC en banc's February 22, 2000 Resolution, the Provincial Board of Canvassers proclaimed Diasen as the duly elected governor.  On the same date, Diasen took his oath of office as governor of Kalinga Province.

On March 9, 2000, after receiving Atty. Aliping's Report on March 3, 2000 on Diasen's proclamation, the COMELEC en banc issued an order:

"1. To direct Rommel Diasen to cease and desist from discharging the duties and functions of the Office of the Governor of Kalinga Province until further orders of this Commission during the pendency of this case;

"2.  To require both parties to comment on the report of Atty. Nicasio M. Aliping, Jr., Regional Election Attorney and Chairman of the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Kalinga, x x x, and to include in said comment why the proceedings of the Provincial Board of Canvassers on February 25, 2000 and the subsequent proclamation of Atty. Rommel Diasen on 28 February 2000 be declared null and void."


Thereafter, the COMELEC en banc re-scheduled the re-hearing of Diasen's  motion for reconsideration (in view of the 3-3 voting) set on March 9 to March 23, 2000.  The parties agreed to file their respective memoranda.

Meanwhile, on October 3, 2000, the COMELEC (Second Division) issued a Resolution in SPC Case No. 98-291 declaring null and void the proclamation of Belac as governor, holding that:

"The proclamation of respondent Belac by the PBC Chairman alone against the votes of the other two members of the PBC is illegal because the Omnibus Election Code (Section 255) provides that a majority vote of all the members of the Board of Canvassers shall be necessary to render a decision."

On November 16, 2000, Belac filed his "Manifestation with Formal Motion" claiming that the votes of Commissioners Gorospe and Guiani in the assailed Resolution dated February 22, 2000 should not be considered since they retired on February 15, 2000, or before the promulgation, citing the recently decided case of Ambil vs. COMELEC.[2] In this case, the Supreme Court held that "one who is no longer a member of the Commission at the time the final decision or resolution is promulgated cannot validly take part in that resolution or decision."

Chairman Demetriou denied Belac's motion.

On November 16, 2000, the Commission en banc, now with new members in view of the retirement of Commissioners Manolo Gorospe and Japal Guiani, promulgated the second challenged Resolution, the dispositive portion of which reads:

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the motion for reconsideration is hereby GRANTED.  Accordingly, We hereby:

"1. AFFIRM the proclamation of Petitioner-Appellant ROMMEL W. DIASEN as the duly elected Governor of Kalinga by Public Respondent Provincial Board of Canvassers of Kalinga;

"2. RECALL and LIFT the Order promulgated on March 9, 2000 directing Petitioner-Appellant to cease and desist from performing the duties and functions of the Office of Governor for the province of Kalinga;

"3. AFFIRM the directive to the LAW DEPARTMENT to conduct appropriate investigations of the Board of Election Inspectors for the municipalities of Pinukpuk and Tinglayan, as well as John Does, for possible collusion in the commission of election offenses and irregularities, subject in the above-entitled case; and

"4. FURNISH a copy of this Resolution to the Office of the President, the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, the Chairman of the Commission on Audit, and the Secretary of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Kalinga Province, for their guidance and information."

The above Resolution was concurred in by Commissioners Julio Desamito, Luzviminda Tancangco, Ralph Lantion and Rufino Javier.  Commissioner Teresita Dy-Liaco-Flores again wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Chairman Demetriou.

Hence, this petition by Dominador Belac on the following grounds:

"First Ground

"Respondent COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack and/or excess of jurisdiction and in fact implicitly deprived petitioner of DUE PROCESS, when it manifestly, deliberately and utterly FAILED AND REFUSED to act WITH DISPATCH on private respondent's SUMMARY Petition on Pre-Proclamation Controversy; the Supposed Final Resolution on Mere REHEARING promulgated only on November 16, 2000, AFTER MORE THAN 30 MONTHS from the filing of the Petition, clearly violated petitioners' right to due process, to a speedy disposition of cases and an (sic) clearly an act of grave abuse of discretion.

"Second Ground

"The November 16 Questioned Resolution (Annex `A') was absolutely useless and was indeed superflous (sic) and totally NULL AND VOID, considering that the same was supposed to be a Final Resolution on a supposed REHEARING under Rule 18, Section 6 of the COMELEC Rules, wrongfully premised on a supposed previous EQUALLY DIVIDED VOTE in the February 22, 2000 Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc, However, legally, procedurally and truthfully there was no such prior Equally Divided Resolution/Vote that would have required a Rehearing, as the COMELEC En Banc patently erred in counting and accepting even the null and void VOTES/signatures of two (2) Commissioners who retired on February 15, 2000 - prior to the February 22, 2000 promulgation.

"Third Ground

"RESPONDENT COMELEC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK AND/OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT EXCLUDED FROM CANVASS FORTY TWO (42) ELECTION RETURNS FOR PINUKPUK AND TWENTY EIGHT (28) ELECTION RETURNS FOR TINGLAYAN, DESPITE UTTER LACK OF LEGAL AND FACTUAL BASES THEREFOR AND IN GROSS AND WANTON DISREGARD OF LAW AND WELL-SETTLED JURISPRUDENCE."

Public respondent COMELEC en banc and private respondent Rommel Diasen filed their respective comments on the petition.

Respondent COMELEC, in its  comment, states that based on evidence on record, there were serious irregularities, tampering and falsification of the questioned election returns in the contested precincts at Pinukpuk and Tinglayan.  On this ground, "although an exception," the COMELEC can rule on the exclusion of the questioned election returns.

In his comment, respondent Diasen maintains that petitioner Belac can not be considered the duly elected governor of Kalinga because the respondent COMELEC (Second Division) unanimously declared null and void his proclamation in its resolution promulgated on October 3, 2000. Likewise, petitioner was not deprived of due process considering that he was given the opportunity to be heard and that he actively participated in the proceedings before the COMELEC.  And by such active participation, he is estopped from questioning the validity of the votes cast by Commissioners Gorospe and Guiani who retired.

The basic issue for our resolution is whether or not respondent COMELEC in a pre-proclamation case can go beyond the face of the election returns.

It may be recalled that when the Provincial Board of Canvassers commenced the canvassing of the Certificates of Canvass and Statements of Votes for Pinukpuk and Tinglayan, respondent Diasen objected to the inclusion of the election returns of several precincts in both municipalities; and that within twenty-four hours therefrom, he filed a formal petition with the Provincial Board of Canvassers for the exclusion of the Certificates of Canvass and Statements of Votes for the said municipalities.

Section 241 of the Omnibus Election Code provides that a pre-proclamation controversy refers to any question pertaining to or affecting the proceedings of the Board of Canvassers which may be raised by any candidate or by any registered political party or coalition of political parties before the Board or directly with the Commission, on any matter raised under Sections 233, 234, 235 and 236 in relation to the preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of the election returns.

Section 243 of the Code enumerates the specific issues that may be raised in a pre-proclamation controversy as follows:

"(a) Illegal composition or proceedings of the board of canvassers;

(b) The canvassed election returns are incomplete, contain material defects, appear to be tampered with or falsified, or contain discrepancies in the same returns or in other authentic copies thereof as mentioned in Sections 233, 234, 235 and 236 of this Code;

(c) The election returns were prepared under duress, threats, coercion, or intimidation, or they are obviously manufactured or not authentic; and

(d) When substitute or fraudulent returns in controverted polling places were canvassed, the results of which materially affected the standing of the aggrieved candidate or candidates."

The above enumeration is restrictive and exclusive.  Thus, in Sanchez vs. COMELEC,[3] this Court held:

"3. The scope of pre-proclamation controversy is limited to the issues enumerated under sec. 243 of the Omnibus Election Code.  The enumeration therein of the issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversy, is restrictive and exclusive.  In the absence of any clear showing or proof that the election returns canvassed are incomplete or contain material defects (sec. 234), appear to have been tampered with, falsified or prepared under duress (sec. 235) and/or contain discrepancies in the votes credited to any candidate, the difference of which affects the result of the election (sec. 236), which are the only instances where a pre-proclamation recount may be resorted to, granted the preservation of the integrity of the ballot box and its contents, Sanchez' petition must fail."

In his petition with the Provincial Board of Canvassers, respondent Diasen raised the following grounds:

"1.  The Certificate of Canvass of  Votes is falsified.

2. The Certificate of Votes were prepared under duress, threats, coercion or intimidation.

3. The certificate of Canvass of votes is obviously manufactured as the Statement of Votes supporting it is likewise manufactured and falsified.

4. There was a deliberate and massive operation DAGDAG-BAWAS in the Certificate of Canvass and Statement of Votes in Pinukpuk, Kalinga.

"1. The votes of Candidate for Governor, Dominador Belac, in Precincts 1A, 2A, 3A, x x x were all padded (OPERATION DAGDAG) or increased in the Statement of Votes per precinct as well as in the Election Returns.

"2. The Election Returns in the above-stated precincts cannot be the basis of a proper correction of the votes garnered by Belac because said election returns were likewise tampered with, falsified and manufactured as can be determined from the documents (ELECTION RETURNS) themselves due to the following:

"A.  The aforesaid election returns were already prepared even before the actual counting of votes as shown by the fact that they were prepared by persons other than the BEIs; (Board of Inspectors)

B.  The PENCRAFT of the BEIs in the aforesaid precincts differ from the pencraft of those who prepared the election returns;

C.  In the aforesaid election returns, the votes of Belac were drastically and obviously increased as can be gleaned from the fact that Belac garnered almost 100% of the registered voters in said precincts;

D.  That in order to determine the true will of the electorate[s], a RECOUNT of the votes must be ordered."

Respondent Diasen's petition pertains to a pre-proclamation controversy.  Specifically, it alleges that the votes for petitioner Belac were all padded through "Operation Dagdag"; the election returns for him (Diasen) was tampered, falsified and manufactured; and that the election returns were already prepared even before the counting of votes.  He thus prays that the votes must be recounted.

Diasen did not say that the alleged irregularities appear on the face of the election returns.  Obviously, they came from external sources and, therefore, not manifest on the election returns.

In fact, even the Certificates of Canvass and Statements of Votes for Pinukpuk and Tinglayan were in order.

The Provincial Board of Canvassers explained that it refused to exclude the Certificate of Canvass of Tinglayan because it was regular on its face and the grounds raised by respondent Diasen are not among those in the list enumerated by law.  Nothing therein shows it was manufactured or prepared under duress, threat or intimidation or that it was tampered or falsified.

As to the Statement of Votes for Tinglayan, the reason why some election returns were not canvassed was because of ballot snatching in some areas. The incompleteness of the Statement of Votes, therefore, did not vitiate the Certificate of Canvass.

With respect to the Certificate of Canvass and Statement of Votes for Pinukpuk, the Board checked the entries therein of the election returns in the presence of the parties' representatives.  Having found there were some "Dagdag" for Belac, the Board required the correction of the Statement of Votes and the Certificate of Canvass basing the correction on the figures in the election returns, pursuant to the General Instructions for Boards of Canvassers.  It was only after the proper correction was made that the Board included the Certificate of Canvass in the provincial canvass.

In Matalam vs. COMELEC,[4] this Court held that "in a pre-proclamation controversy, the COMELEC, as a rule, is restricted to an examination of the election returns and is without jurisdiction to go beyond or behind them and investigate election irregularities.  Indeed, in the case of Loong vs. COMELEC,[5] the Court, through Mr. Justice Regino Hermosisima, Jr., declared that "the prevailing doctrine in this jurisdiction xxx is that as long as the returns appear to be authentic and duly accomplished on their face, the Board of Canvassers cannot look beyond or behind them to verify allegations of irregularities in the casting or the counting of the votes."

Loong cited the earlier ruling of the Court in Dipatuan vs. COMELEC[6] and held: "The policy consideration underlying the delimitation both of substantive ground and procedure is the policy to determine as quickly as possible the result of the election on the basis of the canvass.  Thus, in the case of Dipatuan vs. Commission on Elections, we categorically ruled that in a pre-proclamation controversy, COMELEC is not to look beyond or behind election returns which are on their face regular and authentic returns.  A party seeking to raise issues resolution of which would, compel or necessitate COMELEC to pierce the veil of election returns which appear prima facie regular on their face, has his proper remedy in a regular election protest. By their very nature, and given the obvious public interest in the speedy determination of the results of elections, pre-proclamation controversies are to be resolved in summary proceedings without the need to present evidence aliunde and certainly without having to go through voluminous documents and subjecting them to meticulous technical examinations which take up considerable time."

The above ruling was reiterated in the more recent case of June Genevieve R. Sebastian, et al. vs. COMELEC, et al.,[7] this Court stressing that it sees "no reason to depart from this rule."

In granting respondent Diasen's motion for reconsideration of the Resolution of its First  Division, the COMELEC ruled:

"Based on evidence on record, there were serious irregularities, tampering, and falsification of the questioned returns in the said contested precincts in the municipalities of Tingalayan and Pinukpuk, Kalinga province. On these factual findings, We find for their exclusion from canvass, albeit in a pre-proclamation proceedings."

x x x

"Upon a re-examination and comparison of the copies for this Commission and for the LAMMP, We find that the same were prepared by a few select persons, assembled in a particular place, and pressured by circumstances attendant during elections. There is a striking likeness and uniformity of the handwriting found in the questioned election returns from the different precincts in the two aforementioned municipalities. We are in awe on the evident likeness of strokes in the handwriting in the entries in the election returns, despite the geographic distance of the two municipalities. There is no inescapable conclusionary finding that could be made other than to declare that the contested election returns as manufactured, and therefore, could not be a basis for a valid Certificates of Canvass and Statement of Votes." (Italics supplied).

In concluding that there were serious irregularities, tampering and falsification of the questioned election returns; and that they were manufactured, respondent COMELEC looked beyond the face of the documents, hence, exceeding its authority, contrary to the mandate of Loong, reiterated in Matalam and Sebastian.

We thus hold that respondent COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion when it granted respondent Diasen's motion for reconsideration.

At this point, counsel for respondent Diasen must remember that he should have determined carefully the proper legal remedy or recourse for his client, such as an election protest.  Needless to state, a procedural flaw, as in this case, causes prejudice to the litigants and impairs the proper administration of justice.

We now come on the peripheral issue regarding the votes of Commissioners Gorospe and Guiani in the February 22, 2000 Resolution.  They had retired when they participated in the promulgation of the said Resolution.

In Jamil vs. COMELEC,[8] this Court ruled:

"x x x  A decision becomes binding only after it is validly promulgated. Consequently, if at the time of the promulgation of a decision or resolution, a judge or a member of the collegiate court who had earlier signed or registered his vote, has vacated his office, his vote is automatically withdrawn or cancelled.

"The reason for the rule, which is logically applicable to decisions of constitutional commissions and administrative bodies or agencies, is cogently expressed in the case of Consolidated Bank and Trust Corporation v. Intermediate Appellate Court:

x x x

'A decision becomes binding only after it is validly promulgated and not before.  As we said only recently in In re Emiliano Jurado, `a decision or resolution of the Court becomes such, for all legal intents and purposes, only from the moment of its promulgation.'  According to Chief Justice Moran in the landmark case of Araneta v. Dinglasan:

`Accordingly, one who is no longer a member of this court at the time a decision is signed and promulgated, cannot validly take part in that decision.  As above indicated, the true decision of the Court is the decision signed by the Justices and duly promulgated.  Before that decision is so signed and promulgated, there is no decision of the Court to speak of. The vote cast by a member of the Court after the deliberation is always understood to be subject to confirmation at the time he has to sign the decision that is to be promulgated.  The vote is of no value if it is not thus confirmed by the Justice casting it. The purpose of this practice is apparent.  Members of this Court, even after they have cast their votes, wish to preserve their freedom of action till the last moment when they have to sign the decision, so that they may take full advantage of what they may believe to be the best fruit of their most mature reflection and deliberation.  In consonance with this practice, before a decision is signed and promulgated, all opinions and conclusions stated during and after the deliberation of the Court, remain in the breasts of the Justices, binding upon no one, not even upon the Justices themselves.  Of course, they may serve for determining what the opinion of the majority provisionally is and for designating a member to prepare the decision of the Court, but in no way is that decision binding unless and until signed and promulgated.

We add that at any time before promulgation, the ponencia may be changed by the ponente.  Indeed, if any member of the court who may have already signed it so desires, he may still withdraw his concurrence and register a qualification or dissent as long as the decision has not yet been promulgated. A promulgation signifies that on the date it was made the judge or judges who signed the decision continued to support it.

If at the time of the promulgation, a judge or a member of a collegiate court has already vacated his office, his vote is automatically withdrawn. x x x'"

The rule has not been modified.  In fact in the recently decided case of Ruperto A. Ambil, Jr. vs. COMELEC,[9] this Court passed upon a resolution written by Commissioner Guiani himself, holding that the said resolution is null and void ab initio because:

"A final decision or resolution becomes binding only after it is promulgated and not before. Accordingly, one who is no longer a member of the Commission at the time the final decision or resolution is promulgated cannot validly take part in that resolution or decision.  Much more could he be the ponente of the resolution or decision.  The resolution or decision [of the Division] must be signed by a majority of its members and duly promulgated."

Upon their retirement, Commissioners Gorospe and Guiani had been stripped of all authority to participate in the promulgation of the February 22, 2000 Resolution.  Pursuant to Section 6 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, earlier quoted, the Resolution dated June 4, 1998 of the First Division is therefore deemed affirmed as the votes of Commissioners Gorospe and Guiani are considered cancelled.

Indeed, there was initially no evenly divided vote in the February 22, 2000 Resolution that should have merited a rehearing or the issuance of the challenged Resolution dated November 16, 2000 by the new members of respondent COMELEC.

On petitioner's contention that there was a long and deliberate delay on the part of public respondent COMELEC - as previously stated, respondent Diasen's motion for reconsideration of the Resolution of the COMELEC First Division was filed with respondent COMELEC en banc on June 19, 1998.  However, it was only on February 22, 2000, or after almost two (2) years, when the motion was resolved. In view of the equally divided voting, a rehearing was ordered.  The parties merely submitted memoranda.  Yet, it was only on November 16, 2000, or after almost nine (9) months from February 22, 2000, when respondent COMELEC finally promulgated the other challenged Resolution dated November 16, 2000.

Pre-proclamation controversies are mandated by law to be summarily disposed of.[10] Here, the COMELEC failed to comply with this mandate.  Let it be reminded that pre-proclamation controversies, by their very nature, are to be resolved in summary proceedings which obviously should be disposed of without any unnecessary delay.

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby given due course and is GRANTED.  The challenged Resolutions dated February 22, 2000 and November 16, 2000 of respondent COMELEC en banc are SET ASIDE, while the Resolution of the COMELEC (First Division) dated June 4, 1998 is AFFIRMED. Respondent COMELEC is directed to forthwith conduct the proclamation of petitioner Dominador Belac in accordance with law.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes, Ynares-Santiago, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.



[1] Section 6.  Procedure if Opinion is Equally Divided.- When the Commission en banc is equally divided in opinion, or the necessary majority cannot be had, the case shall be reheard, and if on rehearing no decision is reached, the action or proceeding as originally commenced in the Commission shall be dismissed; in appealed cases, the judgment or order appealed from shall stand affirmed; and in all incidental matters, the petition or motion shall be denied.

[2] G.R. No. 143398, October 25, 2000.

[3] 153 SCRA 68 (1987).

[4] 271 SCRA 733 (1997).

[5] 257 SCRA 1 (1996).

[6] 185 SCRA 86 (1990).

[7] G.R. Nos. 139573-75, March 7, 2000.

[8] 283 SCRA 349 (15 December 1997).

[9] G.R. No. 143398, 25 October 2000.

[10] Dipatuan vs. COMELEC (supra).



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