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Digest: Sandoval v. Commission on Elections (323 SCRA 403, 2000)

Digest: Sandoval v. Commission on Elections (323 SCRA 403, 2000)

Facts: Petitioner and private respondent herein were candidates for the congressional seat for the Malabon-Navotas legislative district during the elections held on May 11, 1998. After canvassing the municipal certificates of canvass, the district board of canvassers proclaimed petitioner the duly elected congressman. The petitioner took his oath of office on the same day. Private respondent filed with the Comelec a petition, which sought the annulment of petitioner's proclamation. He alleged that there was a verbal order from the Comelec Chairman to suspend the canvass and proclamation of the winning candidate, but the district board of canvassers proceeded with the canvass and proclamation despite the said verbal order. He also alleged that there was non-inclusion of 19 election returns in the canvass, which would result in an incomplete canvass of the election returns. The Comelec en banc issued an order setting aside the proclamation of petitioner and ruled the proclamation as void. Hence, this petition for certiorari seeking the annulment and reversal of the Comelec order. 

Issue: Whether or not   COMELEC has the power to take cognizance of SPC No. 98-143 and SPC No. 98- 206

Ruling: we uphold the jurisdiction of the COMELEC over the petitions filed by private respondent. The COMELEC has exclusive jurisdiction over all pre-proclamation controversies. As an exception, however, to the general rule, Section 15 of Republic Act (RA) 7166 prohibits candidates in the presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial and congressional elections from filing pre-proclamation cases. It states: "Sec. 15. Pre-proclamation cases Not Allowed in Elections for President, Vice-President, Senator, and Members of the House of Representatives. — For purposes of the elections for President, Vice-President, Senator and Member of the House of Representatives, no pre-proclamation cases shall be allowed on matters relating to the preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of election returns or the certificates of canvass, as the case may be. However, this does not preclude the authority of the appropriate canvassing body motu propio or upon written complaint of an interested person to correct manifest errors in the certificate of canvass or election returns before it." The prohibition aims to avoid delay in the proclamation of the winner in the election, which delay might result in a vacuum in these sensitive posts. The law, nonetheless, provides an exception to the exception. The second sentence of Section 15 allows the filing of petitions for correction of manifest errors in the certificate of canvass or election returns even in elections for president, vice-president and members of the House of Representatives for the simple reason that the correction of manifest error will not prolong the process of canvassing nor delay the proclamation of the winner in the election. This rule is consistent with and complements the authority of the COMELEC under the Constitution to "enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum and recall" and its power to "decide, except those involving the right to vote, all questions affecting elections." 

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