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Digest: Bandala v. Commission on Elections (424 SCRA 267, 2004)

Election cases involve not only the adjudication of the private interests of rival candidates, but also the paramount need of dispelling the uncertainty which beclouds the real choice of the electorate with respect to whom shall discharge the prerogatives of the offices within their gift.

Thus, election cases are imbued with public interest. Laws governing election contests must be liberally construed to the end that the will of the people in the choice of public officials may not be defeated by mere technical objections

Digest: Bandala v. Commission on Elections (424 SCRA 267, 2004)

Facts: Nancy Soriano Bandala, herein petitioner, and Alejandro G. Berenguel, herein respondent, were mayoralty candidates in Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental during the May 14, 2001 national and local elections.

During the canvass of the election returns conducted by the City Board of Canvassers of Oroquieta City, respondent objected to the inclusion of eighty (80) election returns on the following grounds: (1) that seventy-one (71) election returns were not secured with inner paper seals; (2) that seven (7) election returns do not indicate the party affiliation of the watchers-signatories; and (3) that two (2) election returns have missing pages which contain the list of the local city candidates.

In an Omnibus Ruling, the City Board of Canvassers overturned the objection of respondent and included in its canvass the contested election returns.  Petitioner was proclaimed the duly elected mayor of Oroquieta City. COMELEC affirmed the BOD Resolution, holding that:


Lack of inner seal of an election return does not necessarily mean that the same is spurious and/or was tampered with. Such tampering, or its being spurious must appear on the face of the election return itself. It is the ministerial function of the board of canvassers to count the results as they appear in the returns which on their face do not reveal any irregularities or falsities. 


Petitioner contends that the COMELEC en banc acted with grave abuse of discretion (1) in excluding 101 election returns based on a formal defect of lack of inner paper seals in the election returns; and (2) in nullifying her proclamation as the winning candidate for mayor of Oroquieta City.



1.  Whether the ground of lack of inner paper seals in the election returns be considered a proper issue in a pre-proclamation controversy.

2. Whether the COMELEC commit grave abuse in discretion in nullifying the proclamation of petitioner as mayor of Oroquieta City?


1. The definition of a pre-proclamation controversy under Section 241 of the Omnibus Election Code, thus:

"SEC. 241. Definition. - 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, or any matter raised under Sections 233, 234, 235 and 236 in relation to the preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of the election returns."

The issues that may be raised in a pre-proclamation controversy are enumerated in Section 243 of the same Code, thus:

"SEC. 243. Issues that may be raised in pre-proclamation controversy. - The following shall be proper issues that may be raised in a pre-proclamation controversy:

(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 Section 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 lack of inner paper seals in the election returns does not justify their exclusion from the canvassing. Indeed, it is not a proper subject of a pre-proclamation controversy.

2.  2. "Section 20. Procedure in Disposition of Contested Election Returns. –

x x x

(i)            The board of canvassers shall not proclaim any candidate as winner unless authorized by the Commission after the latter has ruled on the objections brought to it on appeal by the losing party. Any proclamation in violation hereof shall be void ab initio, unless the contested returns will not adversely affect the results of the election. 

Suffice it to state that the above provision applies only where the objection deals with a pre-proclamation controversy, not where, as in the present case, it raises or deals with no such controversy. It bears reiterating that the lack of inner paper seals in the election returns is not a proper subject of a pre-proclamation controversy.

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