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  G.R. No. L-25467 April 27, 1967   LUCAS V. CAUTON, petitioner,vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and PABLO SANIDAD, respondents.  Antonio Barredo for petitioner.Ramon Barrios for respondent Commission on Elections.Pablo C. Sanidad and F. D. Villanueva and Associates for respondent Sanidad.   ZALDIVAR, J .:   In the national elections held on November 9, 1965, petitioner Lucas V. Cauton and respondentPablo Sanidad, along with Godofredo S. Reyes, were candidates for the office of Representative inthe second congressional district of Ilocos Sur.During the canvass by the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Ilocos Sur of the votes cast for thecandidates for Representative in the second congressional district of Ilocos Sur, and particularlyafter the Board had opened the envelopes containing the copies of the election returns from each of the election precincts in the municipalities of Candon, Santiago and Sta. Cruz that were presentedby the Provincial Treasurer of Ilocos Sur to the Board, respondent Sanidad brought to the attentionof the Board the fact that the entries of votes for the candidates for Representative in those copies of the election returns that came from the envelopes presented by the provincial treasurer differed fromthe entries appearing in the copies of the returns from the same election precincts that were in thepossession of the Liberal Party. 1äwphï1.ñët   Respondent Sanidad filed a petition with the Commission on Elections praying for the opening of theballot boxes in all the precincts of Candon, Santiago and Sta. Cruz, in order to retrieve the electionreturns deposited therein so that those election returns might be used in the canvass of the votes for the candidates for Representative in the second district of Ilocos Sur, and that in the meantime theProvincial Board of Canvassers of Ilocos Sur be ordered to refrain from proclaiming the winningcandidate for the office of Representative in said district. The Commission on Elections issued therestraining order prayed for by respondent Sanidad and set his petition for hearing. After hearing, the Commission on Elections found that it had been clearly established that thecopies of the election returns for the Municipal Treasurer, for the Commission on Elections and for the Provincial Treasurer for the municipality of Santa Cruz have uniform alterations in the entries of the votes cast for representative showing different number of votes compared with the Liberal Partycopies, while the copies of the election returns for the Commission on Elections and the ProvincialTreasurer for the municipalities of Candon and Santiago have likewise uniform alterations andshowing different numbers compared with the Liberal Party copies .... 1 The copies of the electionreturns that were furnished the municipal treasurers of Candon and Santiago were never verifiedbecause the municipal treasurers of those two municipalities did not comply with thesubpoena duces tecum issued by the Commission on Elections directing them to bring to theCommission the copies of the election returns of the precincts in their respective municipalities thatwere in their possession.On December 22, 1965, respondent Commission on Elections issued an order providing, amongothers, that... to enable the aggrieved party to establish discrepancy between copies of the electionreturns provided by law in the aforementioned precincts for the purpose of obtaining judicial  remedy under the provisions of Section 163 of the Revised Election Code, theCommission Resolved  ... to direct immediately the opening of the ballot boxes of themunicipalities of Candon, Sta. Cruz and Santiago which are now impounded and under thecustody of the Zone Commander of the 1st PC Zone in Camp Olivas, San Fernando,Pampanga solely for the purpose of retrieving therefrom the corresponding election returns,copies for the ballot box, in all the precincts of said municipalities.Pursuant to the instructions of respondent Commission, contained in the resolution of December 22,1965, the ballot boxes from all the precincts in the municipalities of Candon, Sta. Cruz and Santiagowere opened by the Chief of the Law Enforcement Division of the Commission, Atty. FernandoGorospe, Jr., in the presence of witnesses, and the envelopes containing the election returns foundinside the ballot boxes were taken and brought to Manila on December 23, 1965.On the same date, December 23, 1965, herein petitioner, Lucas V. Cauton, filed before this Court apetition for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction, praying that the resolution of therespondent Commission on Elections dated December 22, 1965 ordering the opening of the ballotboxes used in all the precincts of Candon, Sta. Cruz and Santiago in the elections of November 9,1965 be annulled and set aside. The petition further prays that the Commission on Elections berestrained from opening, the envelopes containing the election returns found in the afore-mentionedballot boxes and be ordered to return the said envelopes to the corresponding ballot boxes. In hispetition, petitioner alleges that the respondent Commission on Elections acted without or in excessof its jurisdiction in issuing the resolution of December 22, 1965. This Court gave due course to thepetition, but did not issue the writ of preliminary injunction prayed for. This petition is now the casebefore Us.Upon instructions by respondent Commission on Elections, on December 28, 1966, the envelopesthat were taken from the ballot boxes were opened and the election returns were taken out and their contents examined and recorded by a committee appointed by the Commission. This was done in aformal hearing with notice to the parties concerned.Respondent Pablo C. Sanidad filed his answer to instant petition on January 5, 1966, admittingsome of the allegations and denying others, and maintaining that the Commission on Elections hadacted well within the bounds of its authority in issuing the order of December 22, 1965. RespondentCommission on Elections also filed its answer on January 5, 1966, maintaining that it has authorityunder the law to order the opening of the ballot boxes as stated in its resolution of December 22,1965.In the meantime, on the basis of the discrepancies in the entries of the votes for the candidates for Representative, between the election returns taken out of the ballot boxes that were opened byorder of the Commission of Elections and the election returns submitted by the Provincial Treasurer of Ilocos Sur to the Provincial Board of Canvassers of Ilocos Sur, respondent Pablo C. Sanidad fileda petition with the Court of First Instance of Ilocos Sur, docketed as Election Case No. 16-N, for arecount of the votes in all the precincts of Candon, Sta. Cruz and Santiago, pursuant to theprovisions of Section 163 of the Revised Election Code.On February 14, 1966, petitioner filed before this Court in urgent motion, in this case, praying for theissuance of an order enjoining the Court of First Instance of Ilocos Sur (Branch II-Narvacan) fromfurther proceeding with Election Case No. 16-N, abovementioned, pending final decision of theinstance case, upon the ground that the recount of the ballots in that case in the court below wouldrender the instant case moot and academic. This motion was denied by this Court in a resolutiondated February 17, 1966.  The principal issue in the present case revolves on the of the resolution of the respondentCommission of Elections, dated December 22, 1965, which orders the opening of the ballot boxesused in all the precincts in the municipalities of Candon, Sta. Cruz and Santiago, Ilocos Sur, duringthe elections of November 9, 1965 for the purpose of retrieving therefrom the corresponding electionreturns, copies for the ballot box, to enable the aggrieved party to establish discrepancy betweencopies of the election returns provided by law in the aforementioned precincts for the purpose of obtaining judicial remedy under the provisions of Section 163 of the Revised Election Code. It is the stand of the petitioner that respondent Commission on Elections is without jurisdiction toissue, or has acted in excess of jurisdiction in issuing, the resolution in question, so that saidresolution is null and void and should not be given legal force and effect. The petitioner contendsthat under Section 157 of the Revised Election Code the Commission on Elections has authority toorder the opening of the ballot boxes only in connection with an investigation conducted for thepurpose of helping the prosecution of any violation of the election laws or for the purelyadministrative purpose but not when the sole purpose is, as in this case, to assist a party in trying towin the election .... The petitioner further, contends that the mere fact that the copies of the returnsin the precincts in question in the possession of the Liberal Party do not tally with the returnsinvolving the same precincts in the possession of the Provincial Treasurer, the Commission of Elections and the Nacionalista Party as well does not legally support the validity of the resolution of the respondent Commission in question .... 2  We cannot sustain the stand of the petitioner. We believe that in issuing the resolution in questionthe Commission on Elections simply performed a function as authorized by the Constitution, that is,to have exclusive charge of the enforcement and administration of all laws relative to the conduct of elections and ... exercise all other functions which may be conferred upon it by law. TheCommission has the power to decide all administrative questions affecting elections, except thequestion involving the right to vote. 3  This Court in a line of decisions has ruled that the Commission on Election has the power toinvestigate and act on the propriety or legality of the canvass of election returns made by the boardof canvassers. In the case of   Albano vs. Arranz  , L-19260, January 31, 1962, this Court, through Mr.Justice J.B.L. Reyes, held as follows:The suspension of the proclamation of the winning candidate pending an inquiry intoirregularities brought to the attention of the Commission on Elections was well within itsadministrative jurisdiction, in view of the exclusive authority conferred upon it by theConstitution (Art. X ) for the administration and enforcement of all laws relative to elections.The Commission certainly had the right to inquire whether or not discrepancies existedbetween the various copies of election returns for the precincts in question, and suspend thecanvass all the meantime so the parties could ask for a recount in case of variance ....'What the respondent Commission on Elections did in the case now before Us is just what iscontemplated in the abovequoted ruling of this Court. The power of the Commission on Elections inthis respect is simply administrative and supervisory — intended to secure the proclamation of thewinning candidate based on the true count of the votes cast. When the Commission on Electionsexercises this power the purpose is not for the Commission to help a candidate win the election butto bring about the canvass of the true results of the elections as certified by the boards of electioninspectors in every precinct. The object of the canvass is to determine the result of the electionsbased on the official election returns. In order that the result of the canvass would reflect the trueexpression of the people's will in the choice of their elective officials, the canvass must be based ontrue, genuine, correct, nay untampered, election returns. It is in this proceedings that theCommission on Elections exercises its supervisory and administrative power in the enforcement of   laws relative to the conduct of elections, by seeing to it that the canvass is based on the electionreturns as actually certified by the members of the board of inspectors. Once the Commission onElections is convinced that the elections returns in the hands of the board of canvassers do notconstitute the proper basis in ascertaining the true result of the elections, it should be its concern,nay its duty, to order the taking of such steps as may be necessary in order that the proper basis for the canvass is obtained or made available.The election law requires the board of inspectors to prepare four copies of the election return in eachprecinct — one to be deposited in the ballot box, one to be delivered to the municipal treasurer, oneto be sent to the provincial treasurer, and one to be sent to the Commission on Elections. In the caseof the canvass of the election returns for candidates for provincial or national offices, the electionreturns received by the provincial treasurer from the boards of inspectors are used. It is the duty of the provincial treasurer to turn over to the provincial board of canvassers the election returnsreceived by him from the boards of inspectors. If the Commission on Elections is duly informed and itso finds, in appropriate proceedings, that the election returns in the hands of the provincial treasurer are tampered, then the Commission should afford the candidate adversely affected by the tamperingan opportunity to show that there exist authentic copies of the same election returns which are nottampered. A recourse may be had to the copies received by the Commission on Elections and to thecopies received by the municipal treasurer. If it is shown, that the copies in the hands of theCommission on Elections and of the municipal treasurer are similarly tampered as the copies in thehands of the provincial treasurer, then it becomes evident that all the three copies of the electionreturns outside the ballot box do not constitute a reliable basis for a canvass. The only copies left tobe checked, whether they are also tampered or not, are the ones inside the ballot boxes. Certainly,the Commission on Elections, in the exercise of its power to administer and enforce the laws relativeto the conduct of elections, may order the opening of the ballot boxes to ascertain whether the copyinside each ballot box is also tampered like the three copies outside the ballot box, corresponding toeach precinct. The Commission on Elections may do this on its own initiative, or upon petition by theproper party. Once it is found that the copy of the election return inside the ballot box is untampered,the Commission on Elections would then have accomplished two things, namely: (1) secured a basisfor the prosecution for the violation of the laws relative to elections, and (2) afforded the partyaggrieved by the alteration of the election returns outside the ballot box a basis for a judicial recountof the votes as provided for in Section 163 of the Revised Election Code. Thus, the Commission onElections has thereby made available the proper and reliable basis for the canvass of the votes thatwill lead to the proclamation by the board of canvassers of the true winner in the elections. In sodoing the Commission on Elections, as we have said, had performed its constitutional duty of administering and enforcing the laws relative to the conduct of elections with a view to promotingclean and honest elections — the very purpose for which the Commission on Elections was createdby constitutional mandate.In the case now before Us, the Commission on Elections issued the questioned resolution after hearing the arguments of the petitioner and the opposition thereto and considering that it hasbeen clearly established  that the copies of the election returns for the Municipal Treasurer, for theCommission on Elections and for the Provincial Treasurer for the municipality of Sta. Cruz haveuniform alteration in the entries of the votes cast for representative showing different number of votes compared with the Liberal Party copies, while the copies of the election returns for theCommission of Elections and the Provincial Treasurer for the municipalities of Candon and Santiagohave likewise uniform alterations and showing different numbers compared with the Liberal Partycopies ... 5 Indeed, in the face of this finding by the Commission on Elections, which indicates a clear violation of the election law, and which indicates an attempt to procure the proclamation of thewinner in the elections for Representative in the second congressional district of Ilocos Sur by theuse of tampered election returns, can the Commission on Elections be remiss in the performance of its duties as a constitutional body committed with the exclusive charge of the enforcement andadministration of all laws relative to the conduct of elections? The Revised Election Code gives to
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