G.R. No. 199082. July 23, 2013 (Case Brief / Digest)

### Title
**Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et al. vs. Commission on Elections, et al.: Reasserting the Independence and Decisional Authority of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in Philippine Electoral Law**

### Facts
The case concerns the creation of a Joint Department of Justice (DOJ)-Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Committee tasked with investigating alleged electoral fraud during the 2004 and 2007 Philippine National Elections. This Joint Committee, established through Joint Order No. 001-2011, aimed to conduct preliminary investigations based on findings by a Fact-Finding Team. Petitioners, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) and Jose Miguel T. Arroyo (Mike Arroyo), challenged the constitutionality of this arrangement, arguing it compromised the independence of the COMELEC and the subsequent investigation and prosecution processes.

The Supreme Court, initially dismissing the petitions, upheld the creation of the Joint Committee and its proceedings. Dissatisfied, the petitioners filed motions for reconsideration, prompting a re-examination of the constitutionality of the Joint Committee and the procedures leading to the filing of electoral sabotage charges against them.

### Issues
1. Whether the creation of the Joint DOJ-COMELEC Committee undermines the decisional independence of the COMELEC.
2. Whether the DOJ should only conduct preliminary investigations when deputized by the COMELEC rather than exercising concurrent jurisdiction.
3. Whether the proceedings conducted by the Joint Committee were rushed and influenced by executive pressure.

### Court’s Decision
The Supreme Court reiterated its previous decision, maintaining the dismissal of the petitions and supplemental petitions. It held that:
– The creation of the Joint Panel (DOJ-COMELEC Committee) did not undermine the independence of the COMELEC. The Court emphasized that the COMELEC’s decisional authority remains intact as final determinations of probable cause for election offenses rest explicitly with the COMELEC.
– The Court found no issue with the establishment of concurrent jurisdiction between the COMELEC and DOJ for investigating and prosecuting election offenses under Section 43 of RA 9369, as amended.
– The motions of the petitioners to delay proceedings or requests for additional materials were found adequately addressed within the procedural context, without prejudice to their rights to due process.
The decision to deny the motions for reconsideration rested primarily on the adequacy of the Joint Committee’s Rules of Procedure and the constitutionality of shared jurisdiction for the preliminary investigation as provided in RA 9369.

### Doctrine
The Supreme Court in this resolution illuminated the doctrine of concurrent jurisdiction between the COMELEC and DOJ in the context of investigating and prosecuting election offenses, asserting that such a collaborative arrangement does not infringe upon the constitutional independence of the COMELEC. Instead, it is a permissible enactment of shared investigative and prosecutorial functions as long as the COMELEC retains ultimate decision-making authority.

### Class Notes
– Concurrent Jurisdiction: Permits both COMELEC and DOJ to initiate investigations on election offenses, underscoring a cooperative but independent prosecutorial mechanism in election laws.
– Decisional Independence of Electoral Bodies: The Supreme Court emphasized maintaining the COMELEC’s independence, allowing no compromise on its authority to decide on probable cause and pursue election offenses.
– Investigative and Prosecutorial Procedures: The procedural steps leading to the determination of probable cause, submission of counter-affidavits, and examination of evidence are key procedural elements critical for law students to master, as demonstrated in this case.

### Historical Background
The case reflects the ongoing tensions between ensuring efficient, thorough investigations of election fraud and maintaining the constitutional independence of election bodies in the Philippines. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case reaffirms the legislative intention behind RA 9369 to enhance the investigative and prosecutorial capacity for election offenses through inter-agency cooperation, without undermining the COMELEC’s constitutional mandate.


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