G.R. No. L-80007 – 157 SCRA 337 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Legislative Department – Members of Congress – Electoral Tribunals – HRET’s Jurisdiction over Electoral Protests
Carmelo Lazatin questioned the jurisdiction of the (Commission on Elections) COMELEC in annulling his proclamation after he had taken his oath of office, assumed office, and discharged the duties as Congressman of the 1st District of Pampanga. Lazatin claims that the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) and not the COMELEC is the sole judge of all election contests.
Francisco Buan, Jr., and Lorenzo Timbol (Lazatin’s opposition), alleged that Lazatin’s petition had become moot and academic because the assailed COMELEC Resolution had already become final and executory when the SC issued a TRO on October 6, 1987. In the COMMENT of the Sol-Gen, he averred that the petition should be given due course because the proclamation was valid. The order issued by the COMELEC directing the canvassing board to proclaim the winner if warranted under Section 245 of the Omnibus Election Code, was in effect a grant of authority by the COMELEC to the canvassing board, to proclaim the winner. A Separate Comment was filed by the COMELEC, alleging that the proclamation of Lazatin was illegal and void because the board simply corrected the returns contested by Lazatin without waiting for the final resolutions of the petitions of candidates Timbol, Buan, Jr., and Lazatin himself, against certain election returns.
ISSUE: Whether or not the issue should be placed under the HRET’s jurisdiction.
HELD: Yes. The SC in a Resolution dated November 17, 1987 resolved to give due course to the petition. The petition is impressed with merit because Lazatin has been proclaimed winner of the Congressional elections in the first district of Pampanga, has taken his oath of office as such, and assumed his duties as Congressman. The alleged invalidity of the proclamation (which had been previously ordered by the COMELEC itself) despite alleged irregularities in connection therewith, and despite the pendency of the protests of the rival candidates, is a matter that is also addressed, considering the premises, to the sound judgment of the Electoral Tribunal.