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Digest: Basher v. Commission on Elections (330 SCRA736, 2000)

Digest: Basher v. Commission on Elections (330 SCRA736, 2000)

Facts: Petitioner Hadji Rasul Batador Basher and Private Respondent AbulkairAmpatua were both candidates for the position of Punong Barangay in Barangay Maidan, Maidan, Lanao del Sur during the May 1997 barangay election. The election was declared a failure and a special one was set for June 1997. Again, the election failed and was reset to August 30, 1997.  According to the Comelec, the voting started only around 9:00 pm in August 30, 1997 because of the prevailing tension in the said locality. The Election Officer reported that she was allegedly advised by some religious leaders not to proceed with the election because "it might trigger bloodshed." She also claimed that the town mayor yelled and threatened her to declare a failure of election in Maidan. Subsequently, the armed followers of the mayor pointed their guns at her. 

The parties were then pacified at the PNP headquarters. With the arrival of additional troops, the election officer proceeded to Maidan to conduct the election starting at 9:00 p.m. until the early morning of the following day. The holding of the election at that particular time was allegedly announced "over the mosque. Private respondent was declared the winner. Petitioner then filed a Petition before the Comelec praying that the election be declared a failure. He alleged that no election was conducted in the place and at the time prescribed by law.  law.   It was also alleged that the election officer had directed the Board of Election Tellers to conduct the election and to fill up the election returns and certificates of canvass on the night of August 30, 1997 at the residence of the former mayor. The Comelec dismissed the petition hence the case at bar. 

Issue: Whether or not the COMELEC acted with grave abuse of discretion in denying motu proprio and proprio and without due notice and hearing the petitions seeking to declare a failure of election in some or all of the precincts in Lumba-Bayabao, Lanao del Sur.

Ruling: An election officer has no authority to declare a failure of election. Only COMELEC itself has legal authority to exercise such power. An election officer alone, or even with the agreement of the candidates, cannot validly postpone or suspend the elections. An announcement “over the mosque” was made at around 8:30pm informing the public that the election will push through at 9:00pm at the incumbent Mayor’s residence. To require the voters to come to the polls on such short notice was highly impracticable. It is essential to the validity of the election that the voters have notice in some form, either actual or constructive, of the time, place and purpose thereof. The time for holding it must be authoritatively designated in advance. Moreover, he cannot conduct the elections from 9:00 p.m. until the wee hours of the following day for this in effect is postponing the elections beyond the time set by law (i.e., 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.).

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