Reference: Annual Audit Report on the Senate Electoral Tribunal
For the Calendar Year 31 December 2003
THE SENATE ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL
The Senate Electoral Tribunal is the agency empowered under Article VI, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution to be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualification of members of the Senate of the Philippines. It is composed of nine (9) members, three (3) of whom are Justices of the Supreme Court and the remaining six (6) are Members of the Senate of the Philippines. The Justice-Members are designated by the Chief Justice, while the Senator-Members are chosen on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties represented in the Senate. The senior Justice in the Tribunal acts as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
At the start of Year 2003, the composition of the Tribunal was as follows:
- Hon. Justice Josue N. Bellosillo …………… Chairman
- Hon. Justice Jose C. Vitug ………………… Member
- Hon. Justice Artemio V. Panganiban ……… Member
- Hon. Senator Juan M. Flavier ……………… Member
- Hon. Senator Francis N. Pangilinan ………. Member
- Hon. Senator Ramon B. Revilla …………… Member
- Hon. Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. …… Member
- Hon. Senator Vicente C. Sotto III ………… Member
- Hon. Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon …………. Member
The composition of the Tribunal changes upon the occurrence of any of the following eventualities: (1) retirement of a justice-member; (2) expiration of the term of office of the senator-members and the results of the ensuing senatorial elections; and (3) change in the political affiliation or committee membership in the Senate of the Philippines of the senator-members.
In year 2003, changes in the justice-membership were occasioned by the compulsory retirement of two (2) justices, namely: Associate Justice Vicente V. Mendoza and Senior Associate Justice Josue N. Bellosillo. Justice Mendoza, who was a Member of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) when he retired on 04 April 2003, was replaced therein by Justice Artemio V. Panganiban effective 01 July 2003. Designated to take the latter’s place in SET, likewise effective 01 July 2003, was Leonardo A. Quisumbing.
With the retirement of its Chairman, Senior Associate Justice Josue N. Bellosillo on 13 November 2003, the entire SET justice-membership changed. Now Senior Associate Justice Reynato S. Puno was designated Chairman, while Associate Justice Artemio V. Panganiban and Consuelo Ynares-Santiago were designated Members of the Tribunal effective said date. There was no change in the senator-membership in the 2003.
Thus, at year-end, the Tribunal was composed of:
- Hon. Justice Reynato S. Puno ……………… Chairman
- Hon. Justice Artemio V. Panganiban ……… Member
- Hon. Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago ……Member
- Hon. Senator Juan M. Flavier ……………… Member
- Hon. Senator Francis N. Pangilinan ………. Member
- Hon. Senator Ramon B. Revilla …………… Member
- Hon. Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. …… Member
- Hon. Senator Vicente C. Sotto III ………… Member
- Hon. Senator Rodolfo G. Biazon …………. Member
Historically, the authority to judge the election, returns and qualifications of members of the Legislature was vested in the National Assembly, as provided in Section 7, paragraph 5 of the Act of the United States Congress of 01 July 1902. This was modified by Section 18, paragraph 1 of the Act of the United States Congress of 29 August 1916, which provided that “the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, shall be the sole judges of the elections, returns and qualification of their elective members x x x.” Such modification emphasized the exclusive character of the jurisdiction granted to each house. One house could not interfere with the judgment of the other house, nor could the courts take cognizance of the subject matter.
A significant change was introduced by the 1935 Constitution. Section 4, Article VI thereof decreed that there shall be an “Electoral Commission composed of three justices of the Supreme Court designated by the Chief Justice and six members chosen by the National Assembly, three of whom shall be nominated by the party having the largest number of votes, and three by the party having the second largest number of votes therein. x x x The Electoral Commission shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of all members of the National Assembly.” Through this provision, the power traditionally lodged in the legislative body itself was transferred to an independent, impartial and non-partisan tribunal.
On 11 April 1940, the second National Assembly adopted Resolution No. 73, amending the 1935 Constitution. Among the amendments introduced thereto was the creation of a bicameral legislature and the establishment of an electoral tribunal for the Senate of the Philippines. Section 11, Article VI of the 1935 Constitution provided as follows: “The Senate x x x shall x x x have an Electoral Tribunal which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of (its) members.”
Although created in 1940, the constitution of the Senate Electoral Tribunal was delayed by war. Elections under the 1940 constitutional amendment were held only on 23 April 1946. The elected Senators assumed office on 25 May 1946, on which date then Supreme Court Chief Justice Manuel Moran transmitted to the Senate of the Philippines the designation of the following as Justice-Members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal:
Justice-Members: Ricardo Paras
Emilio Y. Hilado
The composition of the Tribunal was completed on 27 May 1946 with the nomination of the following senator-members:
Majority: Vicente J. Francisco
Proceso E. Sebastian
Minority: Nicolas Buendia
Barely eleven (11) days later, on 07 June 1946, the Tribunal approved the Rules of the Tribunal. It promulgated its first decision on 19 April 1947 in Case No. 1, entitled “Prospero Sanidad, Vicente dela Cruz and Servillano de la Cruz, Protestants vs. Ramon Diokno, Jose O. Vera, and Jose A. Romero, Protestees”, declaring Protestant Sanidad and Protestees Vera and Diokno as duly elected senators. By this time, the Tribunal composition had changed thus:
- Hon. Justice Ricardo Paras – Chairman
- Hon. Justice Emilio Hilado – Member
- Hon. Justice Gregorio Perfecto – Member
- Hon. Senator Mariano Cuenco – Member
- Hon. Senator Vicente J. Francisco – Member
- Hon. Senator Salipada Pendatun – Member
- Hon. Senator Eulogio Rodriguez – Member
- Hon. Senator Alejo Mabanag – Member
- Hon. Senator Carlos P. Garcia – Member
The Senate Electoral Tribunal did not exist in the parliamentary government under the 1973 Constitution. Jurisdiction over electoral protests against Members of the Batasan Pambansa was lodged with the Commission on Elections (Comelec). The 1987 Constitution returned the power to the Electoral Tribunal from the Comelec.
As reconstituted under the 1987 Constitution, the Tribunal was chaired by then Senior Associate Justice Pedro Yap with Justices Andres R. Narvasa and Hugo E. Gutierrez, Jr. and Senators Neptali A. Gonzales, Joseph E.Estrada, Teofisto B. Guingona, Jr., Jose D. Lina, Jr., Mamintal A.J. Tamano and Victor S. Ziga, as members. Senator Estrada was subsequently replaced by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
Since then, chairmanship of the Tribunal has passed on to Justices Andres R. Narvasa, Hugo E. Gutierrez, Jr., Isagani A. Cruz, Teodoro R. Padilla, Florentino P. Feliciano, Florenz D. Regalado, Flerida Ruth P. Romero, Josue N. Bellosillo and Reynato S. Puno. Other justices of the Supreme Court who served as members of the Tribunal were Justices Edgardo L. Paras, Carolina Griño Aquino, Hilario G. Davide, Jr., Jose A. R. Melo, Santiago M. Kapunan and Leonardo A. Quisumbing.
Other senators who served as members of the Tribunal were Senators Nikki M. L. Coseteng, Freddie N. Webb, Leticia R. Shahani, Alberto G. Romulo, Francisco S. Tatad, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Blas F. Ople, Raul S. Roco, Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., Robert S. Jaworski, John H. Osmeña, Franklin M. Drilon, Sergio R. Osmeña III and Manuel B. Villar, Jr.
SET FOUNDATION DAY
Upon its reconstitution in 1987, the present Senate Electoral Tribnal held its organizational meeting on 26 August 1987. Thus, when the idea of commemorating its foundation was first taken up, it was suggested that that date be considered as its foundation day. However it was pointed out that this would not be historically correct because the Senate Electoral Tribunal had in fact existed even under the 1935 Constitution. Consequently, a research on the founding of the Tribunal was undertaken. The tedious process yielded the information earlier mentioned that the Senate Electoral Tribunal was a creation of Resolution No. 73 of the second National Assembly.
Adopted on 11 April 1940, Resolution No. 73 amended the 1935 Constitution by creating a bicameral legislature as well as the respective tribunals for the Senate of the Philippines and the House of Representatives. As amended, Section 11, Article VI of the 1935 Constitution read: “The Senate x x x shall x x x have an Electoral Tribunal which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of (its) members.”
With this information, the Tribunal approved on 08 August 2002, Resolution No. 10, Series of 2002, declaring the 11th day of April as its Foundation Day. The declaration
was made to accord due recognition to this significant event in the history of the Tribunal and to establish a tradition of commemorating its creation.
SET 48TH FOUNDATION DAY CELEBRATION
On 11 April 2003, for the first time in its existence, the SET commemorated its Foundation Day. In keeping with the SET professed value of prudence, which is defined as “care and foresight in the utilization and management of resources,” the Tribunal opted for simple but meaningful anniversary activities.
Highlight of the celebration was a simple Dinner-Party held at the Committee Hearing Rooms of the Senate of the Philippines. An occasion for thanksgiving to God and to the men and women whose dedicated service and leadership had steered the Tribunal in the attainment of its mandate, the celebration was commenced by a Holy Mass presided by Rev. Fr. Gerardo Tapiador.
Guest of Honor was Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. A member of the Tribunal from 03 August 1995 to 30 June 1998, she was presented a Plaque of Recognition “for her most outstanding achievement as the first woman member of the Tribunal to assume stewardship of the highest office of the land.”
A Loyalty Plaque was presented to Senator Juan M. Flavier “for continuously serving the Tribunal from 10 August 1995 to date, thereby setting the record as the longest serving member of the Tribunal.”
Plaques of Appreciation were presented to the following former Chairpersons of the SET, whose terms of office as Chair are indicated after their names:
- Honorable Chief Justice Pedro L. Yap (26 August 1987 to 17 April 1988)
- Honorable Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa (21 April 1988 to 07 December 1991)
- Honorable Justice Hugo E. Gutierrez, Jr. (10 December 1991 to 01 February 1993)
- Honorable Justice Isagani A. Cruz (02 February 1993 to 10 October 1994)
- Honorable Justice Teodoro R. Padilla (Posthumous) (11 October 1994 to 31 July 1995;
- 02 January 1996 to 21 August 1997)
- Honorable Justice Florentino P. Feliciano (01 August 1995 to 31 December 1995)
- Honorable Justice Florenz D. Regalado (01 September 1997 to 11 October 1998)
- Honorable Justice Flerida Ruth P. Romero (13 October 1998 to 30 July 1999)
They were acknowledged for their committed and benevolent leadership which provided a clear and steady path to the Tribunal in the attainment of its mandate to preserve democracy through the integrity of the electoral process, to observe unwavering fealty to the republican system of government and to uphold the true will of the people as expressed through the electorate.
Loyalty Medals and Cash Gifts were awarded to the following eight (8) pioneer personnel, whose employment with the Tribunal dated back to 1987 as indicated after their names:
- Atty. Eduardo M. David (16 September 1987 to 16 September 1995)
- Ms. Corazon R. Mendoza (16 September 1987 to 31 December 2003)
- Mr. Antonio P. Gutierrez, Jr. (16 September 1987 to present)
- Mr. Rodolfo E. Tolentino (20 October 1987 to present)
- Ms. Ma. Engracia C. Herrera (06 November 1987 to present)
- Ms. Flerida A. Marco (01 December 1987 to present)
- Ms. Rosario M. Perez (14 December 1987 to present)
- Ms. Emily L. Sero (16 December 1987 to present)
Integral parts of the celebration were the mounting of a photo exhibit at the 2nd floor lobby of the Senate Building and the holding of indoor fun games at the Tribunal Offices in Quezon City on 07 and 08 April 2003. Awarding of the winners of the different sports/games played was done during the Celebration. Given cash prizes were: Mr. Elmo R. Ople for Table Tennis, Mr. Severino C. Manicad for Darts, Ms. Jennifer Rodil for Hoola Hoop, Ms. Nancy G. Cañete for Scrabble and Mr. Rodolfo P. Flores for Chess.
A special presentation featured the musical talents of selected SET employees, who were auditioned and trained for barely ten (10) hours by voice instructor Mr. Joselito Mejia. Rendering in four voices the songs, “Ayaya O Pag-Ibig” and “Isang Dugo, Isang Lahi, Isang Musika” were:
SOPRANO Eliza V. Amparo, Nancy G. Cañete, Rowena S. Grasparil, Irene R. Guevarra, Imelda D.Y. Itliong, Flerida A. Marco, Bernadette O. Medina, Ma. Cel-Sa S. Palomar, Arnie P. Sumogat
ALTO Linda Mary Ann C. Agotilla, Janet Jay N. Amboy, Alyce F. Banzon, Angelina L. Gabat, Ma. Engracia C. Herrera, Cecilia F. Jose, Marilou R. Leonor
TENOR Lamberto B. Delleva, Genaro V. Itliong, Pompeyo S. Luague, Anthony B. Morales, Orland F. Pajimola, Adelino S. Sangcap, Mario P. Vicedo, Manuel N. Enriquez
BASS Ronnie P. Aboy, Elmo R. Ople, Isidro M. Garcia, Guillermo B. Ledesma, Reynaldo A. Luzada, Rodolfo E. Tolentino, Joseph Madulid
Special numbers were also rendered by Mr. Bimbo Cerrudo and Ms. Jenn Lopez.
Capping the joyous celebration was the anniversary message of then Tribunal Chairman, Senior Associate Justice Josue N. Bellosillo, who posited that the high cost of litigating an election protest could frustrate the true will of the electorate. He therefore called upon the lawmakers to pass a law that would require the government to shoulder part of the expenses of litigation upon a prima facie showing of a meritorious case.
Masters of ceremonies for the evening affair were Atty. Irene R. Guevarra, Secretary of the Tribunal, and Atty. Jose Midas P. Marquez, Deputy Secretary. As envisioned, the expenses were kept to a minimum as the venue was lent free to the Tribunal, music was provided by the Philippine Air Force Band and additional food (roasted calf) was donated by Senator Ramon B. Revilla.
RESOLUTION NO. 03-03 DATED 12 NOVEMBER 2003
To formalize the observation and recommendation of the Tribunal Chairman in his Anniversary Message, the Tribunal issued on 12 November 2003, Resolution No. 03-03, which read in full thus:
“WHEREAS, by virtue of Article VI, Section 17 of the Constitution, the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) is the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of members of the Senate of the Philippines;
“WHEREAS, the election of Members of the Senate is national in scope, so that every electoral protest usually involves ballots and other election documents and paraphernalia pertaining to electoral precincts all over the country;
“WHEREAS, the third paragraph of Rule 33 of the SET Revised Rules provides that ‘the expenses necessary and incident to the bringing of the ballot boxes and election documents or paraphernalia and returning them after the termination of the case, as well as the compensation of the Revisors, shall be charged against the party requesting the revision and paid from his cash deposit’.
“WHEREAS, under Rule 30 of the SET Revised Rules, the cost of retrieval and return of ballot boxes is estimated at Five Hundred Pesos (P500.00) for each precinct involved in the election protest;
“WHEREAS, in view of the huge amount of money required to maintain and prosecute a senatorial election protest, majority of the election protests filed before the SET were for this reason dismissed upon the motion of the protestant, the latest of which were the following electoral cases:
- SET Case No. 001-98 (Pagdanganan vs. Oreta)
- SET Case No. 002-98 (Lagman vs. Guingona, et al.)
- SET Case No. 001-01 (Enrile vs. Recto and Honasan)
“WHEREAS, in the above-mentioned cases, the rough estimate of expenses for the election and revision of the ballots and other election documents from the pilot precincts, which represent at most twenty-five percent (25%) of the total protested areas, is an average of Five Million Pesos (5,000,000.00), an amount which does not include other incidental costs of litigation as such attorney’s fees, allowances of collection representatives and party revisors, photocopy charges, etc.;
“WHEREAS, as aptly observed by Necessary Protestee Gregorio B. Honasan in SET Case No. 001-01 (Enrile vs. Recto), ‘Contests before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) are prohibitively expensive x x x. Only the very rich can engage in senatorial election protests.’ (pp.1-2, Compliance [Comment and Manifestation], Rollo, Vol. VII, pp. 1923-1924);
“WHEREAS, in order to give flesh and meaning to the purpose for which the Senate Electoral Tribunal was created under the Constitution and in order not to render illusory its power and authority to determine and uphold the true choice of the electorate, it is necessary that financial assistance be provided in the maintenance and prosecution and meritorious election protest, involving as it does public interest;
“WHEREFORE, the Senate Electoral Tribunal RECOMMENDS in the strongest terms possible the early enactment of a legislation providing that every election protest filed before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, after fifteen percent (15%) of the protested electoral precincts shall have been considered and the result thereof shows prima facie merit in the protest, as demonstrated by the substantial change in the number of votes of the parties, thereby providing a sufficient ground to proceed with the collection and revision of the ballots and other election documents from the remaining eighty-five percent (85%) of the contested precincts, the government shall assume the expenses for such collection and revision until completion of the proceedings therein; and creating for this purpose a Special Fund in an amount not lower than Five Hundred Million Pesos (P500,000,000.00).
Resolution No. 03-03 was presented to the Honorable Senate President Franklin M. Drilon on 09 December 2003.
RULES OF THE TRIBUNAL
For its part, the Tribunal has been working, revising existing rules and promulgating new ones to improve its adjudication process and to bring to a minimum the amount that the protestant has to spend in the prosecution of his protest.
The Rules of the Tribunal, which was adopted and promulgated by the Tribunal upon its organization in 1987 to govern its proceedings, had been amended several times with the end in view of enhancing the capability of the Tribunal to achieve just, expeditious and inexpensive determination and disposition of every contest brought before it.
In June 1992, the Tribunal incorporated into the Rules the procedure for ballot revision, technical examination and reception of evidence as well as more detailed provisions on pleadings, the periods for, and manner of their filing, summary dismissals and other matters.
In April 1996, other measures to aid in the prompt disposition of electoral contests were introduced. Thus, under paragraph (c) of Rule 3, in between the regular meetings of the Tribunal, any three (3) of its Members, provided there is at least one (1) justice-member, may sit as the Executive Committee to act on certain matters requiring immediate action by the Tribunal. Under paragraph (d) of the same Rule, the Tribunal may likewise constitute itself into three (3) divisions for the purpose of allocating and distributing its workload. To be composed of one (1) justice and two (2) senators, each division is tasked to act on such matters as may be assigned to it by the Tribunal en banc, including the appreciation of contested ballots and election documents pertaining to the particular contested municipality, city or province assigned to it by raffle. Each division is required to submit to the Tribunal en banc its findings and recommendations within the specified time.
Provisions on preliminary conference, continuous hearings, procedure of hearing and time limit for presentation of evidence and the time for reception of evidence, among others, were also incorporated to thwart dilatory tactics and prevent delay in the proceedings.
In April 1999, the composition of the Executive Committee was changed to include at least one (1) Justice-Member and one (1) Senator-Member. Its powers and functions, however, remained the same. Other amendments were made to address the requirements of due notice to the parties. Rule 27 was amended to prohibit ex-parte motions by requiring that all pleadings, motions and other papers filed with the Tribunal be accompanied by proof of service upon the adverse party or parties, together with the admonition that no action shall be taken on pleadings that fail to comply with such requirement. The same rule was applied to pleadings, motions and other papers filed with the Tribunal in connection with election protests and/or cases pending before other Tribunals, courts or agencies.
Moreover, Section 11, Rule 13 of the Revised Rules of Court, providing for priorities in the modes of service and filing, was adopted as Rule 28-A of the Revised Rules of the Tribunal. Thus, it was directed therein that whenever practicable, the service and filing of pleadings, motions and other papers be done personally. A resort to other modes must to be accompanied by a written explanation why the service or filing was not done personally. A violation of this rule may be cause to consider the paper as not filed.
To further expedite the resolution of incidents, Rule 28-B was added, providing that motions shall not be set for hearing and, unless the Tribunal otherwise determines, no hearing or oral argument shall be allowed in support thereof. The adverse party was given three (3) days from service to file any objections to the motion, which shall be deemed submitted for resolution upon the expiration of said period.
In September 2001, it having been determined that the original composition of the Executive Committee was more responsive to the nature of an electoral protest as a time-bound proceedings, pars. (b) and (c), Rule 3 of the Revised Rules of the Tribunal were amended to revert to the original composition of the Executive Committee of three (3) members, at least one of whom is a justice-member.
The year 2003 saw the passage of the law on absentee-voting and the earnest preparation of the Comelec for the implementation of the automated election system. In order that it may effectively and efficiently carry out its mandate under these innovations in the system of elections in the Philippines, studies were undertaken on the impact of the law on absentee voting as well as the implications of the modernization (computerization) to be adopted by the Comelec on senatorial protests. These studies resulted in the adoption and incorporation of the Rules on Electronic Evidence into the Revised Rules of the Tribunal. The amendment was approved in Resolution No. 03-04 dated 12 November 2003.
ORIENTATION ON THE AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM
A corollary activity targeted by the Tribunal for the year 2003 was the orientation of the SET personnel on the automated election system. On 18 December 2003, an Orientation on the Automated Election System and Demonstration of the Automated Counting Machine was conducted by the Comelec for both the SET and House of Representative Electoral Tribunal (HRET) personnel
COMPILATION OF SUPREME COURT RULINGS
ON ELECTION CASES (Promulgated from 1901 to 2001)
Another significant output of the Tribunal is the Compilation of Supreme Court Rulings on Election Cases (Promulgated from 1901 to 2001). Prepared by the SET Legal Service, under the direction of Atty. Alberto A. Mendoza, Supervising Legislative Staff Officer I, the compilation was edited and organized into headings and sub-headings. The accuracy of the citation of cases was verified, a Table of Contents was prepared and the Bibliography and Case Title Index were revised accordingly.
Printing of the Compilation is being undertaken by the Supreme Court Printing Service, which gave the lowest price quotation. At year-end, the printer’s proof was being proofread.
There was no electoral protest pending before the Tribunal in Year 2003. The protest filed by former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile against Senators Ralph Recto and Gregorio B. Honasan in connection with the 2001 senatorial elections, docketed as SET Case No. 001-01, was considered withdrawn, closed and terminated in Resolution No. 02-14 dated 10 April 2002.
SET Case No. 001-01 (Juan Ponce Enrile, Protestant, versus Ralph Recto, Protestee and Gregorio B. Honasan, Necessary Protestee) was the 10th protest filed with the Tribunal since its reconstitution in 1987.
In 1987, two (2) protests were instituted before the Tribunal, to wit: SET Case No. 001-87 (Augusto Sanches vs. Juan Ponce Enrile and/or Santanina Rasul) and SET Case No. 002-87 (Firdausi Abbas, et al. vs. Heherson Alvarez, et al.)
SET Case No. 001-87 (Sanchez vs. Ponce Enrile, et al.) did not prosper because of the inability of the protestant to make a sufficient showing of his readiness to shoulder and defray the expenses for collection of the ballot boxes pertaining to his pilot precincts.
The second case was instituted by all the candidates of the Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD) against all the winning candidates of the administration party. It was likewise subsequently dismissed as the protestants failed to even identify their pilot precincts.
In 1992, four (4) protests were filed: SET Case No. 001-92 (John Osmeña vs. Freddie Webb); SET Case No. 002-92 (Santanina rasul vs. Freddie Webb and Blas Ople); SET Case No. 003-92 (Alfredo Bengzon vs. Wigberto Tanada, Francisco Tatad, John Osmeña and Agapito Aquino); and, Undocketed (Gloria Macapagal vs. Freddie Webb
The first case was initiated by Senator John Osmeña against Senator Freddie Webb. Osmeña, who received the 23rd highest number of votes among the senatorial candidates and elected to a three-year term, filed the protest against Freddie Webb, who received the 12th highest number of votes and thus elected to a six-year term. Osmeña wanted the votes for “Osmeña” counted in his favor, instead of being treated as stray votes, although there was another candidate named “Steve Osmeña.” The protest was dismissed in June 1993 upon Osmeña’s own motion to withdraw.
In the second electoral case filed in 1992, Senator Santanina Rasul, who won in the said elections, wanted a recount of the votes cast for senators, using as basis the copy of the election returns. She contended that she was credited with less than the actual number of votes cast in her favor. This case was dismissed in September 1993 for insufficiency of form and substance. Named protestees were Senators Freddie Webb and Blas Ople.
Alleging that the certificates of canvass and the statements of votes did not reflect the true and actual votes cast for senators, Alfredo Bengzon, who received the 25th highest number of votes in the senatorial elections, filed a protest against Wigberto Tanada, Francisco Tatad, John Osmeña and Agapito Aquino, who respectively placed 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th. He later filed a motion withdrawing the protest on the ground that the rules governing the protest allow “interminable delays and open-ended imposition of fees and deposits.” The case was dismissed on 03 December 1992.
The incumbent President, Gloria Macapagal filed motion for extension of time to file a protest after the 1992 elections. She decided to withdraw, however, without filing the said protest.
In 1995, the SET came once again to public awareness with the filing of the so-called “DAGDAG-BAWAS” case. Docketed as SET Case No.001-95, the protest was instituted by Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. against Gregorio B. Honasan, Marcelo B. Fernan, Juan Ponce Enrile, Anna Dominique M. L. Coseteng, Ramon V. Mitra and Rodolfo G. Biazon.
This electoral protest was the first case lodged before the Tribunal that required the collection and examination of the contested ballots and other election documents and paraphernalia. The Tribunal collected, revised and examined the ballots and other election documents from the designated pilot areas of Protestant Pimentel, consisting of 7,659 electoral precincts in twenty (20) provinces, mostly in Mindanao.
In August 1997, the Tribunal announced its preliminary findings that based on the results of the revision and appreciation of the ballots pertaining to the designated pilot areas of Protestant Pimentel, Dagdag-Bawas indeed marred the 1995 senatorial elections. In a resolution subsequently issued on 23 June 1998, the Tribunal cited the areas where Dagdag-Bawas was committed as well as the type of Dagdag-Bawas perpetrated. Protestant Pimentel alleged five (5) types of Dagdag-Bawas allegedly committed in the 1995 senatorial elections.
The Tribunal reported that in Pasig City, Tarlac, Tarlac and Biñan, Laguna, the precinct vote totals were altered by placing the digit “1” at the left side of the genuine figures when the precinct vote totals were being transferred from the election returns (ER) to the Statement of Votes (SOV) by Precinct during the municipal or city canvassing, making it appear that the candidate got 100 votes more than he actually did. In some instances, such method resulted in the candidate obtaining more votes than there were actual voters in the precinct.
In Lanao del Norte, Taguig and some municipalities of Sultan Kudarat, the Tribunal discovered that the total votes of some candidates were simply increased in the SOV by Precinct by writing a figure higher than the real vote total in the SOV’s column for “Total”. It was these altered totals that were transferred to the Municipal or City Certificates of Canvass.
In Bataan, Isabela, Pangasinan and Sultan Kudarat, the votes of some candidates as indicated in the Municipal Certificates of Canvass were simply discarded and higher but manufactured figures were transferred to the Statements of Votes by Municipality during the provincial canvass, giving the favored candidates additional votes by the thousands per municipality. The other electoral fraud uncovered in Sultan Kudarat and Tawi-Tawi was the wholesale preparation of ballots by one person only.
Notwithstanding these initial findings, the protest was subsequently dismissed after Protestant Pimentel filed his candidacy, actively campaigned for, won and eventually assumed the office of a Senator in the 11th Congress of the Philippines with a term of six (6) years beginning 30 June 1998. Such term of office overlapped with that pertaining to the office being contested in his electoral protest. Through these acts, the Tribunal considered Protestant Pimentel to have abandoned his protest as well as “his determination to protect and pursue the public interest involved in the matter of who is the real choice of the electorate.”
The certiorari proceedings questioning the dismissal of the case filed by Protestant Pimentel before the Supreme Court was rendered moot by the expiration of the term of the office being contested on 30 June 2001. Entry of judgment was made on 22 November 2003.
In 1998, two (2) electoral protests were lodged before the Tribunal: SET Case No. 001-98 (Roberto M. Pagdanganan vs. Teresa Aquino-Oreta) and SET Case No. 002-98 (Edcel C. Lagman vs. Teofisto Guingona, Jr., Teresa Aquino-Oreta, Roberto Pagdanganan and Ruben Torres).
Alleging that massive electoral fraud was perpetrated through “Operation Dagdag-Lipat-Bawas” and “Operation Bawas” in the senatorial elections of 11 May 1998, Roberto M. Pagdanganan, who obtained the 13th highest number of votes in the senatorial elections, filed a protest against Teresa Aquino-Oreta, the last among the proclaimed winning candidates.
On his part, Edcel C. Lagman, who obtained the 15th highest number of votes, questioned the votes obtained by the candidates who respectively ranked 11th to 14th in the senatorial race; namely: Teofisto Guingona, Jr., Teresa Aquino-Oreta, Roberto Pagdanganan and Ruben Torres. He contested the results in 44 cities and provinces, alleging that massive fraud was perpetrated in these areas through “Operation Dagdag-Bawas” and “Operation Palit Forma”, either singly of jointly.
Despite some delays encountered in these cases arising from the several motions for deferment filed by the protestants themselves, the Tribunal was able to complete the collection, revision and appreciation of the ballots and other election documents from the respective pilot areas of the protestants. However, pending preparation of the resolutions setting forth the results of the revision and appreciation proceedings, protestants Pagdanganan and Lagman withdrew their protests to enable the Comelec to use the ballot boxes involved in their protests for the barangay elections. The Tribunal granted their respective motions for withdrawal of protests on 02 May 2001.
In 2001, as intimated above, only one (1) protest was filed. SET Case No. 001-01 was instituted by Juan Ponce Enrile, who obtained the 14th highest number of votes, against Ralph Recto, who obtained the 12th highest number of votes. Gregorio Honasan, who obtained the 13th highest number of votes, was impleaded as a necessary protestee. Cross protests, counter protests and counter cross protests were filed by the protestees.
At the preliminary conference called by the Tribunal on 07 March 2002, counsel for protestant Juan Ponce Enrile manifested that Protestant was seriously considering the withdrawal of the protest. Subsequently on 14 March 2002, Protestant Enrile filed his Motion for Leave to Withdraw Election Protest, stating that in February 2002, he received the Tribunal’s estimate of expenses to be incurred for the collection, revison and return of ballots, which for the pilot areas alone, amounted to P9,371,190.00. Considering the aforesaid expenses as well as the time and effort that would be spent in the revision and recount of the ballots, and more importantly, that the protest may not be finished in time for Protestant to be able to enjoy his term if ever he wins in the protest, he has decided to withdraw the same.
His Motion was granted in Resolution No. 02-14 dated 10 April 2002. The Main Protest as well as the Counter Protest and Cross Contest of Protestee Recto against Protestant Enrile and necessary Protestee Honasan, respectively, and the Cross Contest and Counter Cross Contest of Necessary Protestee Honasan against Protestee Recto were considered withdrawn, closed and terminated, without pronouncement as to costs. Entry of judgment was made on 07 June 2002.
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE TRIBUNAL
1. Institution of Electoral Contests
An electoral contest against a Member of the Senate is initiated by the filing of a petition for quo warranto or an election protest. These actions are mutually exclusive. Thus, a petition for quo warranto cannot include an election protest, nor can an election protest include a petition for quo warranto.
A petition for quo warranto may be filed by any registered voter who seeks to disqualify a Member of the Senate on the ground of ineligibility or disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines. It should be filed within ten (10) days from the proclamation of the respondent.
In contrast, an election protest can be filed only by a candidate who has duly filed a certificate of candidacy and been voted for the office of Senator. The period for commencing an election protest is fifteen (15) days from the proclamation of the protestee.
2. Action of the Tribunal
Upon receipt of the election protest or petition for quo warranto, the Tribunal may either give due course thereto or summarily dismiss the same. The grounds for dismissal are as follows:
- The petition is insufficient in form and substance;
- The petition is filed beyond the period prescribed therefore;
- The filing fee is not paid within the applicable period prescribed in the Revised Rules of the Tribunal;
- In case of protests where a cash deposit is required, if such deposit, or the first One Hundred Thousand (P100,000.00) Pesos thereof, is not paid within ten (10) days after the filing of the petition;
- The petition or copies thereof, or their annexes, filed with the Tribunal are not clearly legible.
Should the Tribunal decide to give due course to the election protest or petition for quo warranto, summons is issued to the protestee(s) or respondent(s), requiring the latter to file his/their answer within ten (10) days from receipt of the summons.
The protestee may set up in his answer special and affirmative defenses and counterclaims, a counter protest as well as cross contests against the other protestees, if any. Answers to counter protests or cross protests must be filed within ten (10) days from receipt of the counter protest or cross contest.
3. Identification of Pilot Precincts
After the issues in the electoral protest have been joined, the Tribunal may direct and require each of the protestant, counter-protestant and cross-protestants, if any, to state and designate in writing their pilot precincts. The pilot precincts are the provinces, with their municipalities or cities, which said parties deem as best exemplifying or demonstrating the electoral frauds pleaded by each of them. They correspond to at most twenty-five percent (25%) of the total number of precincts involved in the protest, counter protest or cross protests. The collection and revision of ballots as well as the reception of evidence begin with such pilot precincts.
4. Preliminary Conference
In order the aid in the prompt disposition of the electoral protests, after the parties shall have identified their pilot precincts, they are called to a preliminary conference by the Tribunal. At such conference, the parties are asked to consider the following:
- the simplification of issues;
- the possibility of obtaining stipulation or admission of facts and documents to avoid unnecessary proof;
- the limitation of the number of witnesses;
- the nature of the testimonies of the witnesses as to whether they relate to evidence aliunde the ballots, or otherwise;
- the withdrawal of some contested, counter-protested or cross-protested precincts (especially those where, inter alia, the ballots are unavailable due to the existence of protests concerning other positions involving the said ballots or are missing and cannot be located or destroyed due to natural disasters or calamities);
- the fixing of the dates for the reception of evidence, including the matter of reception to be done simultaneously with the revision of ballots if the evidence is intended to prove such causes of action or defenses or issues which are unrelated to the ballots or election documents; and,
- such other matters as may aid in the prompt disposition of the protest, counter-protest or cross contest.
5. Collection of Contested Ballots and Other Election Documents and Paraphernalia.
If warranted by the allegations in the electoral protest, counter protest, or cross contest, or when in its judgment, it is so demanded by the interest of justice, the Tribunal orders the transfer of election documents from the contested areas to the Tribunal premises. These include the ballot boxes and their keys, Books of Voters, Lists of Voters with Voting Records, Statements of Votes by Municipality and Provincial Certificates of Canvass.
It is ideal that collection of the contested ballots and other election documents from the different pilot areas be done simultaneously to ensure the continuous conduct of the revision proceedings. It is further desired that the collection be carried out in the most speedy and inexpensive manner. Thus, the schedule of collection, itineraries of travel and estimates of expenses are carefully and meticulously prepared. Canvass of and negotiations with trucking or shipping companies are undertaken to secure the best price, safety and speed in the delivery of the election materials to the SET Offices at Quezon City. Coordination with the Commission on Elections Main Office as well as the concerned Election Officers, Municipal/City Treasurers, Provincial/City Prosecutors and the Regional Trial Courts, in cases of ballots also involved in local election protests, is done to achieve the smooth retrieval and transfer of the election materials.
Collection is undertaken by the SET Collection Team, composed of a Team Leader and one (1) or two (2) members, depending on the number of ballot boxes to be collected. The Team Leader and Members are regular personnel of the Tribunal who are trained in the collection process and properly oriented on the geographical and cultural characteristics of the places of collection. They are reminded to always be firm but respectful in dealing with other agencies and to remain and appear neutral at all times. They are covered by accident insurance. The Team Leader, who acts as a special disbursing officer during the collection trip, is properly bonded. Furthermore, the Collection Team is provided with marine or police escorts in its collection activity.
The parties are notified of the collection schedule to give them or their duly authorized representatives the opportunity to witness the collection. However, once properly notified, their absence will not prevent the Tribunal from proceeding with the collection. The parties and/or their representatives are called to a pre-collection briefing with the Collection Team for proper coordination.
All necessary and incidental expenses incurred in transporting the election materials to the Tribunal and in returning them to their places of origin are borne by the party requesting the revision and paid from his cash deposit.
6. Revision of Contested Ballots and Election Documents
As soon as there are sufficient number of ballot boxes in its custody to ensure the continuous conduct of the revision proceedings, the Tribunal issues an order for its commencement, specifying the number of revision teams and requiring the parties to deposit their respective shares in the compensation of the revisors. The purpose of revision is to determine the physical count of the votes of the parties and to record the objections and claims to ballots or votes by the parties.
Revision is conducted by revision teams, each of which is composed of a Head Revisor and one (1) revisor for each of the parties. The Head Revisor ia designated by the Tribunal. Being the official representative of the Tribunal in the revision proceedings, high qualifications are required of a head revisor. He/she must be a college graduate and must meet the requirements of absolute loyalty to the Tribunal and strict sense of confidentiality and integrity. Likewise, he/she must not be related to any of the parties or affiliated with any political party.
The applicant for the position of head revisor undergoes rigid screening, which includes written examinations and series of interviews. He/she is oriented and trained prior to the actual performance of duties. His/her performance as head revisor is evaluated regularly. If found negligent, lax or otherwise ineffective in the discharge of his/her duties, he/she is warned to improve or suffer dismissal.
The party revisor is named by the party being represented, subject to accreditation by the Tribunal. Only duly accredited party revisors and alternate party revisors are allowed to participate in the revision proceedings. Furthermore, under the last paragraph of Rule 34 of the Revised Rules of the Tribunal, the Tribunal may, motu proprio, or upon motion of any of the parties, withdraw the accreditation of, remove or oust a party revisor and alternate party revisor from the revision proceedings for disorderly conduct, unruly behavior or for such acts as would tend to delay, disrupt and/or disturb the revision proceedings.
Revision proceedings follow the Rules and Procedures Governing the Revision of Ballots adopted and promulgated by the Tribunal in Resolution No. 01-18 dated o6 September 2001. A consolidation of the SET Revision Rules and House Rules applied to previous revision proceedings, the Rules and Procedures Governing the Revision of Ballots is specifically designed to ensure the smooth and efficient conduct of the revision and to address, eliminate and frustrate attempts of the parties to delay the proceedings.
Toward this end, the Rules regulate both substantive and procedural aspects of the revision proceedings, including administrative details such as the official time and place of revision, break periods and tardiness of head and party revisors. Among the salient provisions are the circumstances under which the forcible opening of ballot boxes by the head revisors is allowed and the time allowed for the viewing and examination of ballots by the party revisors.
7. Photocopying of Revision Reports and Contested Ballots
Due to the number of electoral precincts involved in an electoral protest, what ordinarily is a routinary function has become a major activity of the Tribunal. The reproduction/photocopying of revision reports for purposes of preliminary appreciation entails full-time assignment of a number of personnel to oversee the procedure, do the photocopying, and to check and collate the duplicate copies. When required by the volume of work, rental of copiers is resorted to.
The same demand in personnel assignment is felt when parties request for photocopies of the contested ballots and other election documents. Strict measures are implemented to prevent the loss, destruction or impairment of the integrity of the documents being photocopied. The requesting party is required to provide his own photographic or reproduction equipment.
8. Technical Examination of Ballots and Election Documents
The technical examination of ballots and election documents, when allowed by the Tribunal upon proper motion, is undertaken by an independent expert or experts designated by the Tribunal. The place, schedule and duration of the technical examination are likewise specified by the Tribunal, of which details the parties are given notice at least five (5) days before its commencement.
A party is allowed to attend the technical examination, either personally or through a representative. He is also allowed to avail himself of the assistance of his own expert who may observe, but not interfere with the examination being conducted by the Tribunal’s experts. A party’s absence will not prevent the technical examination from proceeding as scheduled.
9. Hearing and Reception of Parties’ Evidence
The hearing and reception of the parties’ evidence is done either simultaneously with or after the revision of the ballots. It is done simultaneously with the revision if the parties have agreed on the presentation of witnesses to testify on matters or issues aliunde the ballots or other election documents, such as vote-buying, fraud, terrorism or violence. The reception of the evidence on all other matters or issues incident to or interwoven with the ballots and related election documents is done after the revision of all, or substantially all of the ballots or election documents to which they relate.
Rule 54 of the Revised Rules of the Tribunal prescribes the time limit for the presentation of a party’s evidence. The maximum period allowed for the presentation of a party’s evidence for a particular contested province, city or municipality is five (5) hearing days. A Hearing Commissioner designated by the Tribunal hears and receives such evidence. It is required that the Hearing Commissioner be a member of the Philippine Bar and an employee of the Tribunal in any capacity.
10. Preliminary Appreciation of the Contested Ballots and Other Election Documents
The physical count of votes of the parties during revision is preliminarily validated by the Preliminary Appreciation (P.A.) Committees, which likewise rule preliminarily on the objections and claims to the votes or ballots. Each P.A. Committee is composed of the Chairman, Assistor, Recorder and Utility Aide, all members of the P.A. Committee are college graduates with proven sense of loyalty to the Tribunal, independence and integrity. Members of the P.A. Committee undergo the same rigid screening and training given to head revisors. In some instances, former head revisors are engaged as P.A. Committee members as they are already familiar with the revision proceedings.
In the preliminary appreciation of the ballots, the P.A. Committee adheres to the following rules and procedures:
- The Chairman, Assistor and Recorder are voting members
- Each examines the vote/ballot being objected to or claimed by the parties.
- In accordance with law and the rules on appreciation, each votes on whether to admit or reject the vote/ballot under consideration.
- The vote must be unanimous.
- If the members do not agree, the vote/ballot is referred to the Tribunal.
The rulings of the P.A. Committee is reviewed by the Tribunal lawyers who directly supervised the P.A. proceedings. Their findings and recommendations are presented to the Tribunal for final resolution.
11. Appreciation by the Tribunal
The Tribunal validates the physical count of votes of the parties, validates the rulings of the P.A. Committee and rules on the contested ballots referred by the latter.
12. Preparation of Reports on the Revision and Appreciation Proceedings; Annexing of Rulings on the Contested Ballots; Collation of the Parties’ Votes.
The results of the revision and appreciation of ballots per precincts are consolidated and the Final Tally of Votes of the parties is prepared. In order to determined whether or not there is an increase or decrease in the number of votes garnered by the parties, their corresponding votes appearing in the various election documents are gathered and compared with the Final Tally of Votes as determined by the Tribunal.
13. Preparation and Promulgation of Decision or Resolution
Based on the results of the revision and appreciation proceedings as well as the evaluation of the various election documents and pieces of evidence admitted by the Tribunal, a decision or resolution is prepared and promulgated.