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40 Phil. 155

[ G.R. No. 15792, September 17, 1919 ]




This is an original action presented in the Supreme Court for the writ of prohibition. The important question presented is, May a municipal president, vice-president and counciimen join in a single election protest as protestants?

The facts upon which that question is based are as follows:

(1) That on the 3d day of June, 1919, an election was held in the municipality of Caloocan, Province of Rizal, for the purpose of electingmunicipal officers, including president, vice-president and counciimen;

(2) That on the 6th day of June, 1919, the municipal board of canvassers of said municipality, after an examination of the ballots cast, proclaimed that Jose B. Sanchez had been elected president; that Lucas Bustamante had been elected vice-president; and that Francisco Cordero, Nicolas Rivera, Prudencio Jacinto, Domingo Garcia, Esteban Sanchez, Baltazar Victorio, Valentin Macabagdal and Fausto Carlos, respectively, had been elected counciimen;

(3) That on the 16th day of June, 1919, the respondents mentioned above (except the Judge of the Court of First Instance) filed a motion of protest in the Court of First Instance of the Province of Rizal, alleging generally and specifically that certain frauds and irregularities had been committed during said election, and prayed that the respondent judge investigate the same in the manner prescribed by law;

(4) That Jose B. Sanchez, petitioner herein, Lucas Bustamante, Francisco Cordero, Nicolas Rivera, Prudencio Jacinto, Domingo Garcia, Esteban Sanchez, Baltazar Victorio, Valentin Macabagdal and Fausto Carlos were made protestees in said motion of protest;

(5) That all of the candidates for whom votes had been cast at said election were duly notified of said motion of protest;

(6) That on the 21st day of June, 1919, one of said protestees (the petitioner herein) presented a demurrer to the motion of protest upon the ground that there was an improper joinder of parties protestant in the motion of protest. In the presentation of the demurrer Jose B. Sanchez represented himself alone. There was no pretension that he represented his coprotestees;

(7) The record does not show what the other protestees have done since they were given notice of said protest;

(8) Upon a consideration of said demurrer the Hon. Manuel Camus, judge, after a consideration of the arguments, pro and con, presented by the respective attorneys Jose Generoso, for the protestants, and Ramon Diokno, for the protestee Jose B. Sanchez overruled said demurrer, to which ruling Jose B. Sanchez duly excepted, and, on the 9th day of September, presented the present petition in this Court, praying for the writ of prohibition against the respondent judge to prohibit him from proceeding further in said election protest for the reason that there was an improper joinder of parties protestant.

Before discussing that particular question, we deem it proper to observe: (a) that the respondent judge is given jurisdiction to hear and determine municipal election protests (sec. 479, Act No. 2711) ; and (6) that, as judge of the Court of First Instance, he had exclusive and final jurisdiction to try and decide the protest presented by his correspondents herein.

Admitting, for the purposes of the argument only, that there were persons improperly joined as protestants, would that fact in itself be sufficient to deprive the court of its jurisdiction to hear and determine the protest with reference to those who were properly joined? A demurrer based upon the ground of a "defect or misjoinder of parties" does not raise the question of jurisdiction of the court to try the action presented, but, on the contrary, admits the jurisdiction of the court and its right to try the cause presented, and only tends to show and to bring to the attention of the court (a) that there are other persons interested in the action whose presence is absolutely necessary for the proper determination of the cause, or (6) that there are certain persons included as parties in the action against whom no cause of action is shown in the complaint or petition to exist. If the petition shows that there are other parties necessary for the proper decision of the question presented by the petition, who are not made parties, then a demurrer is a proper defense to make before an answer is presented. If, upon the other hand, the petition or complaint shows that certain persons have been made parties to the action, who have no interest whatever in the issues presented then, also, a demurrer is the proper defense to make before an answer is presented. But in neither case, neither for a failure of necessary parties nor because unnecessary parties are included, is the court deprived of its jurisdiction. The court still has jurisdiction to try the questions presented after the question of defect or misjoinder of parties is settled.

Many times the court might be justified, when a demurrer is presented upon either of said grounds defect or misjoinder of parties to overrule the demurrer and require the defendants to answer, and to proceed with the action and await the developments as to proper parties during the trial of the cause, and then to make such an order in the premises relating to the parties as would be just and equitable.

When a demurrer is presented for la defect or misjoinder of parties and the court finds upon examination of the petition that the demurrer is well founded, it is its duty not to dismiss the action but to order the inclusion in the case of a defect of parties and the exclusion in the case of a misjoinder of parties.

The foregoing argument would seem to dispose of the present petition. We are not, however, ihclined to rest our conclusions solely upon the grounds mentioned. The question presented by the petitioner, to wit, May the president, vice-president and councilmen of a municipality join in an election protest, is one which requires a special and specific answer.

An examination of the authorities in the different States of the United States, where comparatively few election protests have been presented, shows that there is some conflict upon the question herein presented. A reading of the very few recorded cases relating to the question before us, convinces us that the sounder doctrine is in favor of permitting all the candidates voted for upon the same ballot to join in an election protest, if they so desire. (Moock vs. Conrad, 155 Pa., 586.)

In this jurisdiction the question presented has not yet been answered. The Election Law providing for election protests, renders no assistance further than to provide the method of commencing an election protest and that "notice to all candidates voted for" of said protest must be given. We have held in numerous cases that the court in election protest cases acquires no jurisdiction until the motion of protest is presented and notice given "to all candidates voted for." (Mayo vs. Court of First Instance of Tayabas and Magbiray, 35 Phil. Rep., 630; De Castro vs. Salas and Santiago, 34 Phil. Rep., 818; Santos vs. Miranda and Clemente, 35 Phil. Rep., 643; Flores vs. Zurbito, 37 Phil. Rep., 746; Velasco vs. Judge of First Instance of Pangasinan and Malong, 35 Phil. Rep., 320.) But we have not yet decided who may join in the motion of protest. While the law requires "notice of the protest to all candidates voted for," that requirement has only been held to apply to "all the candidates voted, for" for the particular office for which the protestant was a candidate. In other words, in case a candidate for the office of president of a municipality should protest the election, we have merely required him to notify not all of the candidates who were voted for at the municipal election but only all of the candidates for the office of president.

In the case of Aquino vs. Judge of First Instance of Cagayan (37 Phil. Rep., 628), which was a municipal contested election case, we held that the failure to give notice to "all the candidates voted for" was not fatal to the contest presented by a defeated candidate for president. In that case the protestant, being a defeated candidate for president of a municipality, failed to give, notice to some of the candidates voted for, for coundlmen. We held that that failure, he having given notice to all the candidates voted for president, should not affect his right to have his contest heard and decided. We did not decide in that case what would be the effect upon the contest presented by the defeated candidates for councilmen, of the failure of notice to other councilmen voted for. In that case, as in the present, the president, vice-president and councilmen joined in the protest. Our decision related only to the effect upon the protest presented by the president of his failure to give notice to some of the councilmen wjio had been voted for.

In the case of Grecia vs. Salas (34 Phil. Rep., 948), five different and distinct election protests had been presented by five different persons in the Court of First Instance. They were each heard separately and each dismissed for the reason that the petition in each case had been signed by the attorney for the protestant and not by the protestant himself. Later, a petition was presented in the Supreme Court in which the parties interested in the said five separate and distinct causes joined in a petition for mandamus, asking that the lower court be required to reinstate each of said causes and to proceed to hear the separate protests. Objection was presented that there was an improper joinder of parties in the petition in this court. In deciding that case much was said concerning the proper joinder of parties. Notwithstanding the objection which was made and the argument against the joinder of parties, this court granted the remedy prayed for and required the lower court to reinstate each of said protests and to proceed to try them upon their merit. That case (Grecia vs. Salas, supra) is no authority for the contention of the petitioner herein.

In the present case twenty-six persons joined in one motion of protest. If the contention of the petitioner is sustained, then, in order to settle the alleged irregularities and frauds complained of in the motion of protest, twenty-six separate and distinct protests must be filed. The alleged frauds and irregularities mentioned in the motion of protest were committed in practically every precinct of the municipality. Can there be any legal objection in requiring the court to hear the proof relating to the frauds and irregularities in eacfi precinct as they affect the different protestants ? To require twenty-six separate and distinct protests to be filed, in our opinion, would necessarily increase the expense of the Government and would greatly hamper and molest, not only the parties directly interested but also the witnesses, who must be called. Practically every witness would be called twenty-six different times; each item of evidence, or paper, or document relating to the fraud would have to be examined twenty-six times, and the testimony recorded an equal number of times. The final adjudication of the questions presented would thus be greatly delayed; the expenses of the municipality would be greatly increased; the citizens of the community would be unnecessarily annoyed for an unnecessary period; and perhaps the conclusion and final adjudication of the questions presented would be delayed until the terms of office of those who had been illegally declared elected had fully expired.

The law contemplates that election contests should be concluded as speedily as possible, to the end that the real will of the voters may be given effect. The hardship caused by unnecessary delays, and a multiplicity of actions should not be imposed upon the people of the municipality in cases of this kind without the very best and. sufficient reasons. We see no reason why the judge should not be permitted and required to hear all of the evidence relating to the alleged frauds committed and to apply the evidence to the persons affected thereby. Moreover, no sufficient reason has been given showing in what manner the respondents can be deprived of any right or benefit which the law guarantees to them by permitting the respondents herein in joining in one election protest. If, perchance, any of their rights or interests may be jeopardized, the trial court will find a way to protect them. We can see no insurmountable difficulty in requiring the judge to investigate, decide, and give effect to all the proofs relating to irregularities and frauds which may be proved in an election contest. We see no greater difficulty in permitting" the joinder of the parties in the present case, arising from a confusion of issues, than there exists in cadastral surveys and in actions of ejectment when the oppositors and defendants are numerous.

For all of the foregoing reasons, we are of the opinion and so decide that all of the candidates for office in a municipality, including the president, vice-president and councilmen, who have been deprived of their right by irregularities and frauds in a municipal election, may join as parties protestant in one motion of protest.

Therefore, the petition is hereby denied, with costs against the petitioner. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Torres, Araullo, Street, Malcolm, Avanceña, and Moir, JJ., concur.

Writ denied.