G.R. No. L-17451. January 31, 1962 (Case Brief / Digest)

### Asis vs. Ilao (114 Phil. 291)

#### Facts:

The case stemmed from the general elections held on November 10, 1959, where Dominador S. Asis was proclaimed the Provincial Governor-elect of Camarines Norte by the Provincial Board of Canvassers, defeating Fernando V. Pajarillo by 59 votes. Pajarillo filed an election protest on December 4, 1959. Asis responded with an answer and counter-protest on December 21, 1959. The case was set for hearing on July 6, 1960, by the respondent Judge.

During the hearings, which continued until July 27, 1960, the Judge decided to appoint Basilio Zantua, the Deputy Clerk of Court, as commissioner to receive the evidence, citing the heavy workload involving other election protests and the practicality of expediting the process. Asis objected through a petition for reconsideration, arguing that neither the Election Law nor the Rules of Court authorizes such an appointment without the parties’ consent and contested that the issues in the case did not fit the criteria for referencing to a commissioner as outlined in the Rules of Court.

The respondent court justified its decision, emphasizing the practicality and the interests of justice as the basis for appointing Zantua. Asis then escalated the matter to the Supreme Court through a petition for certiorari and prohibition with a preliminary injunction to set aside the order.

#### Issues:

1. Whether the appointment of a commissioner to receive evidence in election protest cases is authorized by law or the Rules of Court without the parties’ consent.
2. Whether the procedural action taken by the respondent court was necessary and in the interests of justice.

#### Court’s Decision:

The Supreme Court dismissed the petition, upholding the lower court’s decision to appoint a commissioner. It clarified that the election code, while not prescribing a detailed procedure for the disposition of election cases, does permit the court to appoint officers or commissioners as necessary for examining ballots and recounting votes directly. It emphasized that election cases should be resolved expediently to ascertain the genuine electoral will, free from procedural technicalities.

For this case, the Court reasoned that the appointment of the commissioner was solely for the identification and handling of objected ballots, an activity that did not require the interpretation or appreciation of parol evidence. This task was within the court’s authority under Section 175 of the Election Code, which allows for such appointments to ensure the swift administration of justice.

#### Doctrine:

The Supreme Court reiterated the principle that election cases should be conducted in a summary manner, devoid of the technicalities of standard legal procedures, to expedite the determination of the true electoral will. It affirmed the court’s discretionary power to appoint commissioners or other officers for the efficient handling of cases involving a voluminous examination of ballots and election documents, provided such appointments serve the interests of justice.

#### Class Notes:

– In election protest cases, the court may appoint commissioners to handle specific tasks (like marking objected ballots) to expedite proceedings.
– Such appointments need not require parties’ consent when done in the interests of justice and for procedural efficiency, as supported by Section 175 of the Election Code.
– The principle of conducting election cases in a summary manner, focusing on expedience and public interest, permits deviations from standard procedural rules to clarify electoral outcomes promptly.

#### Historical Background:

This case reflects the judicial approach to handling election disputes in the Philippines, emphasizing the need for swift resolution. It underscores the balance courts strive to maintain between procedural rigor and the practical demands of election contests, ensuring that the elected officials’ legitimacy is promptly validated or challenged, minimizing the period of uncertainty and potential governance disruption.


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