CASE BRIEF 2009-966

CASE: Ricardo C. Duco vs COMELEC First Division and Narciso B. Avelino  (G.R. No. 183366  August 19, 2009)

PONENTE: Bersamin, J.:

SUBJECT: Election Protest

FACTS 1: In 2007 Barangay Election, DUCO was proclaimed as the elected Punong Barangay. His opponent, AVELINO, initiated an election protest in the MCTC, seeking a recount of the ballots alleging that the election results were spurious and fraudulent.

The MCTC ultimately ruled in favor of AVELINO.

Duco filed his notice of appeal to the COMELEC.

However, the COMELEC (First Division) dismissed DUCO’s appeal.

Duco moved for reconsideration, but the COMELEC (First Division) denied his motion.

In its Resolution, it stated that:

DUCO’s “Motion for Reconsideration” 2008 seeking reconsideration of the Commission’s Order is hereby DENIED for failure of the movant to pay the necessary motion fees under Sec. 7 (f), Rule 40 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure as amended by Comelec Resolution No. 02-0130 and for failure to specify that the evidence is insufficient to justify the assailed Order or that the same is contrary to law.

ISSUE: Whether COMELEC (First Division) has the authority to issue such Resolution.

HELD:

None, the COMELEC (First Division) is without authority to resolve the motion.

The action of the First Division was patently contrary to Sec. 3, Article IX-C of the Constitution, which provides:

“Sec. 3. The Commission on Elections may sit en banc or in two divisions, and shall promulgate its rules of procedure in order to expedite disposition of election cases, including pre-proclamation controversies. All such election cases shall be heard and decided in division, provided that motions for reconsideration of decisions shall be decided by the Commission en banc.”

The First Division could not issue the resolution because the Constitution has lodged the authority to do so in the COMELEC en banc.

**NOTE: While the Supreme Court ruled that the COMELEC First Division issued the assailed Resolution contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, it did not remand the motion for reconsideration to the COMELEC en banc for its proper resolution. Instead the court said, “we are going to resolve herein the propriety of the dismissal of the appeal “considering the urgent need for the resolution of election cases, and considering that the issue has, after all, been raised in this petition.”


FACTS 2: DUCO was proclaimed as the elected Punong Barangay. His opponent, AVELINO, initiated an election protest in the MCTC.

The MCTC ultimately ruled in favor of AVELINO.

Duco timely filed his notice of appeal  and paid as appeal fees the amount of P1,400.00 to the MCTC cashier.

However, the COMELEC dismissed Duco’s appeal because he failed to pay the appeal fee in full as pursuant to Section 3, Rule 40 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure mandates the payment of appeal fee in the amount of P3,000.00.

Duco moved for reconsideration and paid the appeal fee as required by the rules, but the COMELEC denied his motion.

Duco contends that the COMELEC should have liberally applied its procedural rules in order not to override substantial justice.

ISSUE/S:Whether or not the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in strictly applying the COMELEC Rules.

RULING:

The COMELEC did not commit any grave abuse of discretion.

The dismissal of the appeal was in accordance with Sec. 9 (a), Rule 22 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, which pertinently states:

“Sec. 9. Grounds for Dismissal of Appeal.- The appeal may be dismissed upon motion of either party or at the instance of the Commission on any of the following grounds:

(a) Failure of the appellant to pay the correct appeal fee;

Xxx”

Under the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, in filing the appeal, the appellant is required to pay the appeal fees imposed by Sec. 3, Rule 40, as amended by COMELEC Resolution No. 02-0130, namely: (1) the amount of P3,000.00 as appeal fee; (2) the amount of P50.00 as legal research fee; and (3) the amount of P150.00 as bailiff’s fee. Pursuant to Sec. 4, Rule 40, of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure, the fees “shall be paid to, and deposited with, the Cash Division of the Commission within the period to file the notice of appeal.”

Here, while DUCO timely filed his notice of appeal, however, his appeal fee was short by P1,800.00, based on the above COMELEC Rules. Moreover, he paid the appeal fee to the MCTC cashier, contrary to the mandate of Sec. 4, Rule 40 of the COMELEC Rules of Procedure that the payment be made to the Cash Division of the COMELEC.

The payment of the deficiency beyond the reglementary period to file an appeal did not cure the defect, because the date of the payment of the appeal fee is deemed the actual date of the filing of the notice of appeal. Accordingly, his appeal, filed already beyond the reglementary period, rendered the decision of the MCTC final and immutable.

At any rate, the plea for a liberal application of technical rules of procedure to promote the ends of justice is undeserving of any sympathy from us. Time and again, we have ruled that the payment of the full amount of docket fee within the period to appeal is a sine qua non requirement for the perfection of an appeal. Such payment is not a mere technicality of law or procedure, but an essential requirement, without which the decision or final order appealed from becomes final and executory, as if no appeal was filed.  

The petitioner (DUCO) ought to be reminded that appeal is not a right but a mere statutory privilege that must be exercised strictly in accordance with the provisions set by law.


THINGS DECIDED:

A) The COMELEC Division could not rule on the motion for reconsideration assailing the its earlier issued Order because the Constitution (see: Sec. 3, Article IX-C of the Constitution) has lodged the authority to do so in the COMELEC en banc.

B) The payment of the deficiency beyond the reglementary period to file an appeal did not cure the defect, because the date of the payment of the appeal fee is deemed the actual date of the filing of the notice of appeal

C) Appeal is not a right but a mere statutory privilege that must be exercised strictly in accordance with the provisions set by law.

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Read Full Text:
Ricardo C. Duco vs COMELEC First Division and Narciso B. Avelino  (G.R. No. 183366  August 19, 2009)

Stare Decisis