SECTION 17 of Art. VI – The Legislative Department
CASE NO. 80
Joker Arroyo vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) and Augusto Syjuco, Jr.
G.R. No. 118597 July 14, 1995
PONENTE: Justice Francisco
THE Supreme Court granted Makati Cong. Joker Arroyo’s petition to declare that public respondent HRET committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction when it proceeded to decide in favor of his rival Augusto Syjuco, Jr.’s election protest based on the latter’s “precinct level document based anomalies/evidence” theory. The High Tribunal also imposed a fine of P1,000 against Syjuco for indirect contempt.
This came even as the Constitution itself has so provided that both the Senate and Congress shall have a separate body, that would be the “sole judge” of legislative electoral contests and that their decisions on such controversies are not subject to appeal to the Supreme Court.
In an eleven-page decision dated July 14, 1995, Justice Francisco said the Supreme Court in this case has to step in as HRET has violated not only the rules of evidence and Cong. Arroyo’s right to due process but the sanctity of the electoral process and its results.
He then invoked Art. III, Section I that provides the Supreme Court the authority to determine whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.
“Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, the petition is hereby GRANTED, and public respondent HRET''s majority decision dated January 25, 1995 is SET ASIDE. Private respondent Augusto L. Syjuco, Jr., having been found guilty of indirect contempt, is hereby fined the amount of one thousand pesos (P1,000.00) to be paid within five (5) days from receipt of this decision,” the decision reads.
Justice Francisco recounted how Syjuco filed an electoral process at the HRET just five days after the Makati Board of Canvassers declared Arroyo as the congressman of the lone district of Makati.
Syjuco sought for a revision of Arroyo’s proclamation citing alleged irregularities/anomalies in the tabulation and entries of votes and massive fraud. He wanted a recounting of ballots casts cast in 1,292 out of the total 1,714 precincts of Makati from which result he aimed to be declared as the duly elected congressman of Makati.
HRET granted Syjuco’s request and a recounting was done, but not without serious irregularities.
No less than Supreme Court Justice Emilio Gancayco confirmed that these irregularities and anomalies engineered by some HRET officials and personnel to make sure that Arroyo’s votes “were consistently reduced” while Syjuco’s were “always constant.”
“Arroyo is the victim of this unlawful practice,” he said.
But at that point, Syjuco then moved that the recounting should stop despite how there were still three precincts that have been unaccounted for.
According to him, he has already overtaken Arroyo’s lead of 13,559 votes and then proceeded to submit all documentary and voluminous consisting of over 200,000 pages all were "mere photocopies and not certified or authenticated by comparison with the original documents or identification by any witness” and were formally offered by merely asking that they be marked.
Justice Francisco said the HRET should have asked Syjuco for the original copies and that it should not have based its decision on such documents as this is a violation of the very basic rules on evidence.
But what surprised the Supreme Court was on how Syjuco veered away from his original petition that his protest should be decided on the traditional revision and recounting of ballots and now asks HRET to decide on a what he says is a “truly innovative and non-traditional process called “precinct level document based anomalies/evidence.”
Syjuco was then asking the HRET to consider his evidens and voluminous documents that dates back to even before the election started during the election’s voters’ registration period and other alleged anomalies. HRET then ruled in favor of Syjuco with six of its congressmen members favoring the former while three of the justices shaking their heads.
Arroyo filed a petition to stay the HRET decision saying that HRET committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. The High Tribunal ruled in favor of Arroyo saying it has violated the rules of evidence by giving probative value to unauthenticated documents and for disregarding election results on several precincts on the basis of omissions committed either through mere oversight or plain negligence on the part of election officials or employees which is not part of the grounds to nullify the votes casts by the people in their exercise of suffrage in these precincts.
“The persistent and deliberate violation of the Tribunal''s own governing rules and of even the most basic rules of evidence cannot be justified…the Court, therefore, cannot stamp with approval the conduct exhibited by public respondent HRET as it was attended by arbitrariness,” Justice Francisco said. The Supreme Court also imposed a P1,000 fine against Syjuco for maligning one of the justices when he hinted that this justice was bias as she was having an affair with Arroyo.