9/23/2020

G.R. No. 153945

"WHEREFORE, premises considered, the En Banc resolution dated November 9, 2000 is hereby AFFIRMED. The
Law Department is hereby directed to file the proper information against respondents for violation of Art. XXII, Sec.
261, par. (y) sub-par. (5) of the Omnibus Election Code."
Hence, the instant petition.
The Issues
Petitioners contend that the COMELEC en banc committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction in –
1. Recommending the prosecution of petitioners for double registration despite clear and convincing evidence
on record that they had no intention of committing said election offense;
2. Not considering the letter dated August 21, 1997 addressed to the COMELEC Assistant Director of Cavite
City as substantial compliance with the requirement of the law for cancellation of previous registration; and
3. Taking cognizance of the case in the first instance in violation of Section 3, Article IX-C of the Constitution.
In sum, petitioners insist they are innocent of any wrongdoing in their act of registering twice on different days in two
different precincts. Petitioners argue that they did not intend to perpetrate the act prohibited, and therefore they
should be exculpated. They claim honest mistake and good faith in registering twice. Petitioners claim they made
the first registration because of the intervention and instigation of Ignacio.
Petitioners theorize that their August 21, 1997 letter to the election registrar of Cavite City informing him of the lapse
and asking how to rectify the same constitutes substantial compliance with the Omnibus Election Code’s
requirement of cancellation of prior registration. They further implore a liberal construction of the laws on election
offenses since almost five years had lapsed from the date of the commission of the offense on June 15, 1997. They
claim the case is about to prescribe under the Election Code.
Lastly, petitioners fault the COMELEC en banc for assuming original jurisdiction over the case in contravention of
Section 3, Article IX-C of the Constitution. Petitioners argue that this constitutional provision requires that election
cases must first be heard and decided by a Division before assumption of jurisdiction by the COMELEC en banc.
The Court’s Ruling
The petition is bereft of merit.
First and Second Issues: Whether the criminal cases should be dismissed on the ground of lack of intent and
substantial compliance with the requirement of cancellation of previous registration.
In Minute Resolution No. 00-2281 dated November 9, 2000, the COMELEC en banc affirmed the recommendation
of the investigating officer. The COMELEC thus directed its Law Department to file the necessary information
against petitioners for violation of Article XXII, SEC. 261 (y) (5) of the Election Code which reads:
"SEC. 261. Prohibited Acts. – The following shall be guilty of an election offense:
(y) On Registration of Voters:
(5) Any person who, being a registered voter, registers anew without filing an application for cancellation of
his previous registration."
Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration to which the COMELEC en banc issued the assailed Resolution dated
June 3, 2002 affirming the Minute Resolution.
The grant by the Constitution to the COMELEC of the power to investigate and prosecute election offenses is
intended to enable the COMELEC to assure the people of "free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections."
This grant is an adjunct to the COMELEC’s constitutional duty to enforce and administer all election laws. Failure by
the COMELEC to exercise this power could result in the frustration of the true will of the people and make an idle
ceremony of the sacred right and duty of every qualified citizen to vote.4
Petitioners lose sight of the fact that the assailed resolutions were issued in the preliminary investigation stage. A
preliminary investigation is essentially inquisitorial and is only the means to discover who may be charged with a
crime, its function being merely to determine probable cause.5 All that is required in the preliminary investigation is
the determination of probable cause to justify the holding of petitioners for trial. By definition, probable cause is –
"x x x a reasonable ground of presumption that a matter is, or may be, well founded x x x such a state of facts in the
mind of the prosecutor as would lead a person of ordinary caution and prudence to believe or entertain an honest or
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