Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

 

G.R. No. 109005 January 10, 1994

JUAN D. VICTORIA, petitioner,
vs.
THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and JESUS JAMES CALISIN, respondents.

Juan D. Victoria for himself and in his own behalf.

The Solicitor General for public respondent.

 

QUIASON, J.:

This is a petition for certiorari, under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Court in relation to section 2, Article IX of the Constitution, to set aside (a) the Resolution of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) dated January 22, 1993, which certified respondent James Calisin as the highest ranking member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Albay and (b) its Resolution dated February 22, 1993, which denied the motion for reconsideration of petitioner.

The issue in the case at bench is the ranking of the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Albay for purposes of succession.

In the May 11, 1992 Elections, the following candidates from the first, second and third districts of the Province of Albay were elected and proclaimed as members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, to wit:

 

FIRST DISTRICT

Name No. of Votes Garnered

1. Jesus James Calisin 28,335 votes
2. Vicente Go, Sr. 17,937 votes
3. Clenio Cabredo 16,705 votes

SECOND DISTRICT

1. Juan D. Victoria 32,918 votes
2. Jesus Marcellana 26,030 votes
3. Lorenzo Reyeg 23,887 votes

THIRD DISTRICT

1. Ramon Fernandez, Jr. 19,315 votes
2. Masikap Fontanilla 19,241 votes
3. Arturo Osia 17,778 votes
4. Nemesio Baclao 17,545 votes


(Rollo, pp. 27-28)

Due to the suspension of Governor Romeo Salalima of the Province of Albay, Vice-Governor Danilo Azana automatically assumed the powers and functions of the governor, leaving vacant his post as vice-governor. Under the law, Azana's position as vice-governor should be occupied by the highest ranking Sangguniang member, a post being contested by petitioner and private respondent.

In answer to private respondent's petition for his declaration as senior Sanggunian member for the Province of Albay, the COMELEC issued a resolution dated January 22, 1993, certifying him as first in the order of ranking with petitioner herein as second ranking member. The COMELEC based its certification on the number of votes obtained by the Sanggunian members in relation to the number of registered voters in the district.

Thus, on February 15, 1993, Secretary Rafael M. Alunan III of the Department of Interior and Local Government designated private respondent as acting Vice-Governor of the province.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the COMELEC resolution which was denied on February 22, 1993.

Hence, this petition.

Petitioner claims that the ranking of the Sanggunian members should not only be based on the number of votes obtained in relation to the total number of registered voters, but also on the number of voters in the district who actually voted therein. He further argues that a district may have a large number of registered voters but only a few actually voted, in which case the winning candidate would register a low percentage of the number of votes obtained. Conversely, a district may have a smaller number of registered voters but may have a big voters' turn-out, in which case the winning candidate would get a higher percentage of the votes. Applying his formula, petitioner would come out to be the highest ranking Sanggunian member.

Petitioner gives the following illustration:

1. for private respondent.

107,216 (actually voted)
覧覧覧覧覧 x 28,335 (votes obtained) = 23.40%
129,793 (registered voters)

(Rollo, pp. 24, 25 and 30)

2. for petitioner

121,423 (actually voted)
覧覧覧覧覧 x 32,918 (votes obtained) = 25.84%
154,665 (registered voters)

(Rollo, p. 9).

We are not persuaded.

The Local Government provides:

Sec. 44. Permanent Vacancies in the Office of the Governor, Vice-Governor, Mayor, and Vice-Mayor. (a) If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the governor or mayor, the vice-governor or
vice-mayor concerned shall become governor or mayor. If a permanent vacancy occurs in the offices of the governor, vice-governor, mayor, or vice-mayor, the highest ranking Sanggunian member or, in case of his permanent inability, the second highest ranking Sanggunian member, shall become the governor, vice-governor, mayor or vice-mayor, as the case may be. Subsequent vacancies in the said office shall be filled automatically by the other Sanggunian members according to their ranking as defined herein.

xxx xxx xxx

For purposes of succession as provided in this Chapter, ranking in the Sanggunian shall be determined on the basis of the proportion of votes obtained by each winning candidate to the total number of registered voters in each district in the immediately preceding local election. (Emphasis ours)

The COMELEC came up with the following ranking of the top three Sanggunian members:

覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧
NAME District Registered Votes Percent Rank
of Elected Voters Obtained Dist'n
Candidates
覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧
ALBAY

CALISIN,
JESUS JAMES B. 1st 130,085 28,335 21.78 1st

VICTORIA,
JUAN D. 2nd 155.318 32,918 21.19 2nd

MARCELLANA
JESUS, M. 2nd 155.318 26,030 16.76 3rd
覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧
(Rollo, p. 14)

The law is clear that the ranking in the Sanggunian shall be determined on the basis of the proportion of the votes obtained by each winning candidate of the total number of registered voters who actually voted. In such a case, the Court has no recourse but to merely apply the law. The courts may not speculate as to the probable intent of the legislature apart from the words (Pascual v. Pascual-Bautista, 207 SCRA 561 [1992]).

In the case of Globe-Mackay Cable and Radio Corporation v. National Labor Relations Commission, 206 SCRA 710 (1992), we held that:

. . . Under the principles of statutory construction, if a statue is clear, plain and free from ambiguity, it must be given it literal meaning and applied without attempted interpretation. This plain-meaning rule or
verba legis derived from the maxim, index animi sermo est (speech is the index of intention) rests on the valid presumption that the words employed by the legislature in a statute correctly express its intent or will and preclude the court from construing it differently. The legislature is presumed to know the meaning of the words, to have used words advisely, and to have expressed its intent by the use of such words as are found in the statute. Verba legis non est recedendum, or from the words of a statute there should be no departure. . .

Petitioner's contention is therefore untenable considering the clear mandate of the law, which leaves no room for other interpretation but it must very well be addressed to the legislative branch and not to this Court which has no power to change the law.

Considering the foregoing, we find no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC in issuing the Resolution dated January 22, 1993.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Cruz, Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Nocon, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno and Vitug, JJ., concur.


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