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Digest: Poe v. Macapagal-Arroyo (454 SCRA 142, 2005)

Digest: Poe v. Macapagal-Arroyo (454 SCRA 142, 2005)

Facts: On June 24, 2004, the Congress as the representatives of the sovereign people and acting as the National Board of Canvassers, in a near-unanimous roll-call vote, proclaimed Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) as the duly elected President of the Philippines. She obtained the highest votes, followed by the second-placer, Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ). She then took her Oath of Office before the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on June 30, 2004.

Refusing to concede defeat, Mr. FPJ, filed an election protest before the Electoral Tribunal. Both parties exchanged motions to rush the presentation of their respective positions on the controversy. Together with the formal Notice of the Death of Protestant on December 14, 2004, his counsel has submitted to the Tribunal, dated January 10, 2005, a "MANIFESTATION with URGENT PETITION/MOTION to INTERVENE AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR DECEASED PROTESTANT FPJ," by the widow, Mrs. Jesusa Sonora Poe. She claims that because of the untimely demise of her husband and in representation not only of her deceased husband but more so because of the paramount interest of the Filipino people, there is an urgent need for her to continue and substitute for her late husband in the election protest initiated by him to ascertain the true and genuine will of the electorate in the 2004 elections. 

Issue: Whether or not the widow substitute/intervene for the protestant who died during the pendency of the latter’s protest case?

Ruling:  The fundamental rule applicable in a presidential election protest is Rule 14 of the PET Rules.

Pursuant to this rule, only two persons, the 2nd and 3rd placers, may contest the election. By this express enumeration, the rule makers have in effect determined the real parties in interest concerning an on-going election contest. It envisioned a scenario where, if the declared winner had not been truly voted upon by the electorate, the candidate who received that 2nd or the 3rdhighest number of votes would be the legitimate beneficiary in a successful election contest.

This Tribunal, however, does not have any rule on substitution nor intervention but it does allow for the analogous and suppletory application of the Rules of Court, decisions of the Supreme Court, and the decision of the electoral tribunals.

Rule 3, Section 16 is the rule on substitution in the Rules of Court. This rule allows substitution by a legal representative. It can be gleaned from the citation of this rule that movant/intervenor seeks to appear before this Tribunal as the legal representative/substitute of the late protestant prescribed by said Section 16. However, in our application of this rule to an election contest, we have every time ruled that a public office is personal to the public officer and not a property transmissible to the heirs upon death. Thus, we consistently rejected substitution by the widow or the heirs in election contests where the protestant dies during the pendency of the protest.

Motion of movant/intervenor is DENIED for lack of merit.

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