[G.R. No. 137266. December 5, 2001]
ANTONIO M. BERNARDO, ERNESTO A. DOMINGO, JR. and JESUS C. CRUZ, petitioners, vs. BENJAMIN S. ABALOS, SR., BENJAMIN "BENHUR" D. ABALOS, JR., DR. EDEN C. DIAZ, ROMEO F. ZAPANTA, ARCADIO S. DE VERA and THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondents.
"x x x.
The petition must fail.
Petitioners did not exhaust all the remedies available to them at the COMELEC level. Specifically, they did not seek a reconsideration of the assailed COMELEC En Banc Resolution as required by Section 1, Rule 13 of the 1993 COMELEC Rules of Procedure, thus:
Section 1. What Pleadings are not Allowed. The following pleadings are not allowed:
x x x
d) motion for reconsideration of an en banc ruling, resolution, order or decision except in election offense cases;
x x x. (Emphasis ours)
It is not disputed that petitioners complaint before the COMELEC involves an election offense. But in this petition, they conveniently kept silent why they directly elevated to this Court the questioned Resolution without first filing a motion for reconsideration with the COMELEC En Banc. It was only after the respondents had filed their comment on the petition and called this Courts attention to petitioners' failure to comply with Section 1 of Rule 13 that they, in their Consolidated Reply, advanced the excuse that they "deemed it best not seek any further dilatorymotion for reconsideration', even if allowed by Sec. 1 (d) of COMELEC Rule 13."
Petitioners' failure to file the required motion for reconsideration utterly disregarded the COMELEC Rules intended "to achieve an orderly,just, expeditious and inexpensive determination and disposition of every action and proceeding brought before the Commission."
Contrary to petitioners' statement that a resort to a motion for reconsideration is "dilatory," it bears stressing that the purpose of the said motion is to give the COMELEC an opportunity to correct the error imputed to it. If the error is immediately corrected by way of a motion for reconsideration, then it is the most expeditious and inexpensive recourse. But if the COMELEC refuses to correct a patently erroneous act, then it commits a grave abuse of discretion justifying a recourse by the aggrieved party to a petition for certiorari.
A petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, can only be resorted to if "there is no appeal, orany plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law." Having failed to file the required motion for reconsideration of the challenged Resolution, petitioners' instant petition is certainly premature. Significantly, they have not raised any plausible reason for their direct recourse to this Court.
In its assailed Resolution, the COMELEC cited a valid reason for dismissing petitioners' complaint against private respondents for vote buying. The COMELEC found that the evidence of the respondents have "more probative value and believable than the evidence of the complainants;" and that the evidence submitted by petitioners are "mere self-serving statements and uncorroborated audio and visual recording and a photograph."
Moreover, Section 28 of Republic Act 6646 provides:
SEC. 28. Prosecution of Vote-buying and Vote-selling. The representation of a complaint for violations of paragraph (a) or (b) of Section 261 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 supported by affidavits of complaining witnesses attesting to the offer or promise by or of the voters acceptance of money or other consideration from the relatives, leaders or sympathizers of candidate, shall be sufficient basis for an investigation to be immediately conducted by the Commission, directly or through its duly authorized legal officers, under Section 68 or Section 265 of said Batas Pambansa Blg. 881.
x x x. (Emphasis ours)
Petitioners' complaint expressly states that no supporting affidavits were submitted by the complaining witnesses to sustain their charge of vote buying. Suffice it to state that the absence of such supporting affidavits shows the frailty of petitioners' complaint. Indeed, it is vulnerable to dismissal.
x x x."