This is a petition brought by Congressman Dimaporo seeking to nullify the twin Resolutions of the HRET which denied his Motion for Technical Evaluation of the Thumbmarks and Signatures Affixed in the Voters Registration Records and Motion for Reconsideration of Resolution Denying the Motion for Technical Examination of Voting Records.
Pursuant to the 1998 HRET Rules Congressional candidate Mangotara Petition of Protest (Ad Cautelam) seeking the technical examination of the signatures and thumb the protested precincts of the municipality of Sultan Naga Dimaporo (SND). Mangotara alleged that the massive substitution of voters and other electoral irregularities perpetrated by Dimaporo’s supporters will be uncovered and proven. From this and other premises, he concluded that he is the duly-elected representative of the 2nd District of Lanao del Norte.
Noting that “the Tribunal cannot evaluate the questioned ballots because there are no ballots but only election documents to consider” HRET granted Mangotara’s motion and permitted the latter to engage an expert to assist him in prosecution of the case, NBI conducted the technical examination.
ISSUE:1. W/N Dimaporo was deprived by HRET of Equal Protection when the latter denied his motion for technical examination.
2. W/N Dimaporo was deprived of procedural due process or the right to present scientific evidence to show the massive substitute voting committed in counter protested precincts.
RULING:1. Resolution of HRET did not offend equal protection clause. Equal protection simply means that all persons and things similarly situated must be treated alike both as to the rights conferred and the liabilities imposed. It follows that the existence of a valid and substantial distinction justifies divergent treatment.
According to Dimaporo since the ballot boxes subject of his petition and that of Mangotara were both unavailable for revision, his motion, like
Mangotara’s, should be granted.
The argument fails to take into account the distinctions extant in Mangotara’s protest vis-à-vis Dimaporo’s counter-protest which validate the grant of Mangotara’s motion and the denial of Dimaporo’s.
First. The election results in SND were the sole subjects of Mangotara’s protest. The opposite is true with regard to Dimaporo’s counter-protest as he contested the election results in all municipalities but SND. Significantly, the results of the technical examination of the election records of SND are determinative of the final outcome of the election protest against Dimaporo. The same cannot be said of the precincts subject of Dimaporo’s motion.
It should be emphasized that the grant of a motion for technical examination is subject to the sound discretion of the HRET. In this case, the Tribunal deemed it useful in the conduct of the revision proceedings to grant Mangotara’s motion for technical examination. Conversely, it found Dimaporo’s motion unpersuasive and accordingly denied the same. In so doing, the HRET merely acted within the bounds of its Constitutionally-granted jurisdiction. After all, the Constitution confers full authority on the electoral tribunals of the House of Representatives and the Senate as the sole judges of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of their respective members. Such jurisdiction is original and exclusive.
2. Anent Dimaporo’s contention that the assailed Resolutions denied him the right to procedural due process and to present evidence to substantiate his claim of massive substitute voting committed in the counter-protested precincts, suffice it to state that the HRET itself may ascertain the validity of Dimaporo’s allegations without resort to technical examination. To this end, the Tribunal declared that the ballots, election documents and other election paraphernalia are still subject to its scrutiny in the appreciation of evidence.
It should be noted that the records are replete with evidence, documentary and testimonial, presented by Dimaporo. Dimaporo’s allegation of denial of due process is an indefensible pretense.