DOCTRINE:

The COMELEC En Banc shall decide a case or matter brought before it by a majority vote of “all its members,” and NOT majority of the members who deliberated and voted thereon.

FACTS:

(This case stemmed from the case of Romeo Estrella vs. Rolando Salvador: Rolando Salvador was proclaimed winner in a mayoralty race in May 14, 2001 elections. His opponent, Romeo Estrella, filed before Regional Trial Court (RTC) an election protest which consequently annulled Salvador‘s proclamation and declared Estrella as the duly elected mayor and eventually issued writ of execution.)

In this case, Petitioner Romeo M. Estrella sought the nullification of the Status Quo Ante Order issued by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) En Banc in “Romeo M. Estrella v. Rolando F. Salvador,” directing the “parties to maintain the status quo ante order, which is the condition prevailing before the issuance” by the Regional Trial Court of Malolos of a writ of execution for the enforcement of said court’s decision declaring petitioner as the duly elected mayor of Baliwag, Bulacan.

In the issuance of the questioned COMELEC En Banc Status Quo Ante Order, five (5) of the then incumbent seven 7 members of the COMELEC participated: Commissioners Benjamin Abalos, Sr., Luzviminda Tangcangco, Rufino S.B. Javier, Resurreccion Z. Borra and Ralph C. Lantion.

Commissioners Abalos, Tangcangco, Javier and Lantion voted for the issuance of said order, while Commissioner Borra dissented.

In the COMELEC En Banc Status Quo Ante Order, Commissioner Lantion stated in his handwriting that “his previous voluntary inhibition is only in the SPR cases and not in the EAC” and that “as further agreed in the Second Division, [he] will not participate in the Division deliberations but will vote when the case is elevated [to the] en banc.”

In this Court’s Resolution, now the subject of private respondent’s Motion for Reconsideration, it was held that:

Commissioner Lantion’s voluntary piecemeal inhibition cannot be countenanced. Nowhere in the COMELEC Rules does it allow a Commissioner to voluntarily inhibit with reservation. To allow him to participate in theEn Banc proceedings when he previously inhibited himself in the Division is, absent any satisfactory justification, not only judicially unethical but legally improper and absurd.

Since Commissioner Lantion could not participate and vote in the issuance of the questioned order, thus leaving three (3) members concurring therewith, the necessary votes of four (4) or majority of the members of the COMELEC was not attained. The order thus failed to comply with the number of votes necessary for the pronouncement of a decision or order, as required under Rule 3, Section 5(a) of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure.

In seeking a reconsideration of the above-quoted Resolution, private respondent cites Cua v. Commission on Elections, which provides three (3) votes would have been sufficient to constitute a majority to carry the decision of the COMELEC En Banc as provided by the Constitution and the appropriate rules.

ISSUE:

Whether or not cases filed before the COMELEC should be decided by a majority vote of all it’s members.

HELD:

YES. Section 5(a) of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure was lifted from Section 7, Article IX-A of the Constitution which provides:

SECTION 7.  Each Commission shall decide by a majority vote of all its members any case or matter brought before it within sixty days from the date of its submission for decision or resolution. . . . (Emphasis and italics supplied)

The provision of the Constitution is clear that it should be the majority vote of all its members and not only those who participated and took part in the deliberations. Under the rules of statutory construction, it is to be assumed that the words in which constitutional provisions are couched express the objective sought to be attained. 5 Since the above-quoted constitutional provision states “all of its members,” without any qualification, it should be interpreted as such.

In the case at bar, following the clear provision of the Constitution, counting out Commissioner Lantion’s vote from the questioned COMELEC En Banc resolution would leave just three (3) votes out of “all” seven (7) members of the COMELEC and “[t]hree is not the majority of seven.”||||

For the foregoing reasons then, this Court hereby abandons the doctrine laid down in Cua and holds that the COMELEC En Banc shall decide a case or matter brought before it by a majority vote of “all its members,” and NOT majority of the members who deliberated and voted thereon.||| 

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