BAGUIO CITY, Philippines ? The Supreme Court, sitting en banc on April 7, ordered the Commission on Elections to proceed with the recount of votes cast for the mayoral and vice mayoral contests in 2007 in Tagaytay City, a month before the next election is held.
The recount of 116 contested ballot boxes had been delayed by procedural challenges initiated by Mayor Abraham Tolentino and Vice Mayor Celso de Castro in 2008.
Tolentino complained that the Comelec abused its authority by pursuing a synchronized recount with the Senate Electoral Tribunal without prescribing a set of rules, claiming it led to ?disorderly proceedings.?
The SET has custody of 44 contested ballot boxes, while the Comelec has 72 boxes.
Tolentino also argued that the revision proceedings disregarded questions about the ballots? authenticity.
The Supreme Court commended the Comelec for its action on the Tagaytay recount case.
?The nature of election protest cases often makes the Comelec face varied situations calling for the exercise of its general authority to adopt means necessary to effect its powers and jurisdiction,? the court said.
It said the poll body?s second division issued ground rules with sufficient notice to the parties, ?who were thereby adequately shielded from partiality or unfairness during the process of revision.?
?The [second] division should instead be commended for carrying out its mandate to expedite the disposition of the present election controversies,? said the 27-page decision written by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin.
?The Comelec, in its performance of its duties, must be given considerable latitude in adopting means and methods ? To require a more stringent rule would unduly handicap the Comelec in the achievement of its mandate to expeditiously dispose of election contests,? it said.
The court ordered the Comelec ?to resolve the election protests as soon as practicable.?
In another en banc decision on April 7, the high court reinstated a Northern Samar town mayor who lost his seat in 2009 because of a recount decision enforced by the Comelec Second Division.
Mayor Quintin Saludaga was allowed to resume his post after the court annulled the Comelec?s Sept. 4, 2009, decision that installed Artemio Balag as mayor of Lavezares, Northern Samar.
The second division, citing the ?briefness of the remaining term for mayor as good reason for immediate execution,? enforced the results of a recount ordered by the regional trial court in March 2008, which showed that Balag won the 2007 elections.