Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Manila

EN BANC

FESTO R. GALANG, JR.,

Petitioner,

- versus -

HON. RAMIRO R. GERONIMO,
as Presiding Judge of the Regional
Trial Court of Romblon, Branch 81;
and NICASIO M. RAMOS
,

Respondents.

G.R. No. 192793

Present:

CORONA, C.J.,

CARPIO,

CARPIO MORALES,*

VELASCO, JR.,

NACHURA,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,*

BRION,

PERALTA,

BERSAMIN,

DEL CASTILLO,

ABAD,

VILLARAMA, JR.,

PEREZ, and

MENDOZA, and

SERENO, JJ.

Promulgated:

February 22, 2011

x  - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - x

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

This resolves the Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of  Court, praying that the Order[1] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Romblon, Branch 81, dated June 24, 2010, denying petitioner's Motion to Admit Answer and the Order[2] dated July 22, 2010, denying herein petitioner's Omnibus Motion, be reversed and set aside.

The records reveal the following antecedent facts.

On May 12, 2010, at 12:37 p.m., petitioner was proclaimed winner for the mayoralty race during the May 10, 2010 Automated Elections for the Municipality of Cajidiocan, Province of Romblon.  The proclamation was based on the Certificate of Canvass (COC), but without the official signed Certificate of Canvass for Proclamation (COCP).   This was done with the approval of the Provincial Board of Canvassers (PBOC) Chairman.

Subsequently, private respondent Nicasio Ramos, who was also a mayoralty candidate in the same election, requested the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to conduct a manual reconciliation of the votes cast.  The COMELEC then issued Resolution No. 8923, granting said request.  The manual reconciliation was done on May 20, 2010 at the Sangguniang Bayan Session Hall, after which proceedings the eight winning Sangguniang Bayan Members were also proclaimed.  The MBOC made erasures and corrections using correction fluid on the COCP for the Sangguniang Bayan Members to reflect the results of the manual reconciliation.  As for the COCP for the previously proclaimed mayoralty and vice-mayoralty candidates, the total number of votes for each of the candidates remained the same even after the manual reconciliation; hence, only the date was erased and changed to read “May 20, 2010” to correspond with the date of the manual reconciliation.

On May 27, 2010, private respondent filed an election protest case against petitioner before the RTC.  The following day, the court sheriff went to petitioner's residence to serve summons with a copy of the petition.  The Sheriff's Return of Summons[3] stated that the sheriff was able to serve Summons on petitioner by leaving the same and the attached copy of the protest with a certain Gerry Rojas, who was then at petitioner's residence.

On June 8, 2010, petitioner, together with his then counsel of record, Atty. Abner Perez, appeared in court and requested a copy of the summons with a copy of the election protest.  During the hearing on said date, respondent judge directed petitioner to file the proper pleading and, on June 11, 2010, petitioner filed a Motion to Admit Answer, to which was attached his Answer with Affirmative Defense and Counterclaim.  One of his affirmative defenses was that the electoral protest was filed out of time, since it was filed more than ten (10) days after the date of proclamation of the winning candidate.

The trial court then issued the assailed Order dated June 24, 2010, finding the service of Summons on petitioner on May 28, 2010 as valid, and declaring the Answer filed on June 11, 2010, as filed out of time.  The dispositive portion of said Order reads as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Motion to Admit Answer is DENIED for lack of merit.

The Motion to Admit Answer having been denied, the preliminary conference shall proceed ex parte, as previously scheduled pursuant to Section 1, Rule 9, A.M. No. 10-4-1-SC.

SO ORDERED.[4]

On July 12, 2010, petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion to: (1) Restore Protestee's Standing in Court; (2) Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated June 24, 2010; and (3) Suspend Proceedings Pending Resolution of Falsification Case Before the Law Department of the COMELEC.  However, on July 22, 2010, the trial court issued the second assailed Order denying petitioner's Omnibus Motion.

Hence, the present petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65, alleging that respondent judge acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in considering as valid, the Sheriff's Service of Summons on May 28, 2010 on a person not residing in petitioner's residence.

On the other hand, respondents pointed out that the petition for certiorari should not be filed with this Court but with the COMELEC.

The petition must fail.

Section 4, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 07-7-12-SC, which provides when and where a petition for certiorari should be filed, states thus:

SEC. 4. When and where to file petition. – The petition shall be filed not later than sixty (60) days from notice of the judgment or resolution. In case a motion for reconsideration or new trial is timely filed, whether such motion is required or not, the petition shall be filed not later than sixty (60) days counted from the notice of the denial of the motion.

If the petition relates to an act or an omission of a municipal trial court or of a corporation, a board, an officer or a person, it shall be filed with the Regional Trial Court exercising jurisdiction over the territorial area as defined by the Supreme Court. It may also be filed in the Court of Appeals or with the Sandiganbayan, whether or not the same is in aid of the court’s appellate jurisdiction. If the petition involves an act or an omission of a quasi-judicial agency, unless otherwise provided by law or these rules, the petition shall be filed with and be cognizable only by the Court of Appeals.

In election cases involving an act or an omission of a municipal or a regional trial court, the petition shall be filed exclusively with the Commission on Elections, in aid of its appellate jurisdiction.[5]

The question then is, would taking cognizance of a petition for certiorari questioning an interlocutory order of the regional trial court in an electoral protest case be considered in aid of the appellate jurisdiction of the COMELEC?  The Court finds in the affirmative.

Interpreting the phrase “in aid of its appellate jurisdiction,” the Court held in J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Jaramillo, et al.[6] that if a case may be appealed to a particular court or judicial tribunal or body, then said court or judicial tribunal or body has jurisdiction to issue the extraordinary writ of certiorari, in aid of its appellate jurisdiction.  This was reiterated in De Jesus v. Court of Appeals,[7] where the Court stated that a court may issue a writ of certiorari in aid of its appellate jurisdiction if said court has jurisdiction to review, by appeal or writ of error, the final orders or decisions of the lower court.

Note that Section 8, Rule 14 of the 2010 Rules of Procedure in Election Contests Before the Courts Involving Elective Municipal Officials states that:

Sec. 8.  Appeal. - An aggrieved party may appeal the decision to the COMELEC within five (5) days after promulgation, by filing a notice of appeal with the court that rendered the decision, with copy served on the adverse counsel or on the adverse party who is not represented by counsel.[8]

Since it is the COMELEC which has jurisdiction to take cognizance of an appeal from the decision of the regional trial court in election contests involving elective municipal officials, then it is also the COMELEC which has jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari in aid of its appellate jurisdiction.  Clearly, petitioner erred in invoking this Court's power to issue said extraordinary writ.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

On Official Leave

ANTONIO T. CARPIO                CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice                               Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.       ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice                              Associate Justice

On Official Leave

AN    TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO              ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice                          Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN                              MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice                                Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD                            MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

Associate Justice                     Associate Justice


JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ                            JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice                          Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO

Associate Justice

 

 

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice



* On official leave.

[1] Penned by Executive Judge Ramiro R. Geronimo; rollo, pp. 24-25.

[2] Id. at 38-39.

[3] Rollo, pp. 44-45.

[4] Id. at 25.

[5] Emphasis and underscoring supplied.

[6] 118 Phil. 1022 (1963).

[7] G.R. No. 101630, August 24, 1992, 212 SCRA 823, 827.

[8] Emphasis supplied.