Monday, October 12, 2009

Hipe vs COMELEC et al., G.R. No. 181528 [2]

[1]     [2]     [3]

The Exclusion of the Seven Election Returns
Was Amply Supported by Evidence

Nevertheless, even if we entertain petitioner Hipe’s appeal from the decision of the MBOC on the questioned election returns, the Court still rules in favor of respondent Vicencio.

Petitioner Hipe claims that no proof was presented nor was there any showing that the seven election returns in question were defective.[25]   Such contention is not persuasive.

The COMELEC, after a judicious evaluation of the documents on record, upheld the findings of the MBOC to exclude the subject election returns on the basis of the affidavits of the members of the Board of Election Inspectors.  What exactly these documents and evidence are upon which the COMELEC based its resolution, and how they have been appreciated in respect of their sufficiency, are beyond this Court’s scrutiny.[26] The rule that factual findings of administrative bodies will not be disturbed by courts of justice except when there is absolutely no evidence or no substantial evidence in support of such findings should be applied with greater force when it concerns the COMELEC, as the framers of the Constitution intended to place the COMELEC—created and explicitly made independent by the Constitution itself—on a level higher than statutory administrative organs.[27]  The factual finding of the COMELEC is, therefore, binding on the Court. As found by the COMELEC En Banc:

Besides, we do not agree that the exclusion of the seven (7) election returns in question were not supported by any iota of evidence. This is amply supported by the affidavits of the Members of the Board of Election Inspectors; they were all made in clear and unequivocal language by public officers who are presumed to have performed such duties in the ordinary and regular execution thereof. A careful re-examination of the evidence on record reveals that there is sufficient justification to uphold the MBOC ruling to exclude the subject election returns. The MBOC retains sufficient discretion to avail itself of all available means to ascertain the results of the elections through witnesses as well as examination of the election returns themselves. Where there is no abuse of discretion the MBOC is presumed to have acted within its powers and its decision should be treated with some amount of respect.[28]

This is especially true in the instant case considering that, as noted by the COMELEC En Banc in its questioned Resolution, one of the witnesses petitioner Hipe previously presented later on recanted her testimony and admitted that she had made her previous statement as to the regularity of the conduct of the May 14, 1007 elections only out of fear due to threats upon her person.[29] As correctly observed by the COMELEC En Banc:
We also note that even one of the witnesses presented by the appellant, Melanie Robion, Chairman of the BEI for precinct No. 0037B, later on recanted her testimony. This spells doom to the appellant’s cause as it even impacts on the veracity and truthfulness of the other affidavits that the appellant submitted. We are reminded of the legal principle that a falsity in one is a falsity in all, “Falsus in Onum, Falsus in Omnibus” and would now be more inclined to believe the assertions made by the appellee instead of those presented by the appellant, who has now been unmasked to have been less than truthful at one time or another.[30]

Considering the foregoing discussion, there is ample evidence to support the findings of the COMELEC that the seven election returns in question should be excluded. The contention of petitioner Hipe that said election returns were excluded from the canvass merely on the basis of pure procedural technicalities is, therefore, unfounded.

[1]     [2]     [3]

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