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G.R. Nos. L-68379-81 – 144 SCRA 194 – Political Law – Due Process – impartial and competent court
Javier and Pacificador, a member of the KBL under Marcos, were rivals to be members of the Batasan in May 1984 in Antique. During election, Javier complained of “massive terrorism, intimidation, duress, vote-buying, fraud, tampering and falsification of election returns under duress, threat and intimidation, snatching of ballot boxes perpetrated by the armed men of Pacificador.” COMELEC just referred the complaints to the AFP. On the same complaint, the 2nd Division of the Commission on Elections directed the provincial board of canvassers of Antique to proceed with the canvass but to suspend the proclamation of the winning candidate until further orders. On June 7, 1984, the same 2nd Division ordered the board to immediately convene and to proclaim the winner without prejudice to the outcome of the case before the Commission. On certiorari before the SC, the proclamation made by the board of canvassers was set aside as premature, having been made before the lapse of the 5-day period of appeal, which the Javier had seasonably made. Javier pointed out that the irregularities of the election must first be resolved before proclaiming a winner. Further, Opinion, one of the Commissioners should inhibit himself as he was a former law partner of Pacificador. Also, the proclamation was made by only the 2nd Division but the Constitute requires that it be proclaimed by the COMELEC en banc. In Feb 1986, during pendency, Javier was gunned down. The Solicitor General then moved to have the petition close it being moot and academic by virtue of Javier’s death.
ISSUE: Whether or not there had been due process in the proclamation of Pacificador.
HELD: The SC ruled in favor of Javier and has overruled the Sol-Gen. The SC has repeatedly and consistently demanded “the cold neutrality of an impartial judge” as the indispensable imperative of due process. To bolster that requirement, we have held that the judge must not only be impartial but must also appear to be impartial as an added assurance to the parties that his decision will be just. The litigants are entitled to no less than that. They should be sure that when their rights are violated they can go to a judge who shall give them justice. They must trust the judge, otherwise they will not go to him at all. They must believe in his sense of fairness, otherwise they will not seek his judgment. Without such confidence, there would be no point in invoking his action for the justice they expect.
Due process is intended to insure that confidence by requiring compliance with what Justice Frankfurter calls the rudiments of fair play. Fair play calls for equal justice. There cannot be equal justice where a suitor approaches a court already committed to the other party and with a judgment already made and waiting only to be formalized after the litigants shall have undergone the charade of a formal hearing. Judicial (and also extrajudicial) proceedings are not orchestrated plays in which the parties are supposed to make the motions and reach the denouement according to a prepared script. There is no writer to foreordain the ending. The judge will reach his conclusions only after all the evidence is in and all the arguments are filed, on the basis of the established facts and the pertinent law.