Byline: REY G. PANALIGAN
Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno has ordered trial court judges to report for work tomorrow to attend to all cases that may be filed in connection with the nationwide barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
The order was issued to executive judges of regional trial courts (RTC) and those whose salas have been designated as special courts, and all judges of municipal trial courts (MTC) and those assigned to cities, called the municipal trial courts in cities (MTCC).
In an administrative order, Puno also directed the clerks of court to maintain a skeletal staff to receive payment of legal fees or cash bonds that may be posted for election cases.
The mobilization of trial court judges in tomorrow's elections was requested by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in a letter sent to the Chief Justice last Friday.
"Election cases enjoy high priority. They cannot be classified in the bracket of ordinary civil or criminal cases. What is involved is nothing less than the sovereignty of the people... the heart of a democratic government," Puno said.
MTC and MTCC judges have jurisdiction over election cases involving elective barangay and SK officials. RTCs, meanwhile, have jurisdiction over cases involving elective municipal officials but have also been harnessed by the Supreme Court for the barangay and SK elections.
The Comelec has jurisdiction over election contests involving elective regional, provincial, and city officials.
The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET), and the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) have jurisdiction over election protests involving members of the House of Representatives, members of the Senate, and the President and the Vice-President, respectively.
Earlier, the SC had approved the Rules of Procedure in Election Contests involving elective municipal and barangay officials.
Among the salient features of the new rules are:
1. In stations, where there is only one branch designated as special court, the election contest shall be automatically assigned to the branch.
2. All single-sala courts are considered special courts for the above purpose and, for this reason, shall give priority to these cases in their trial calendars.
3. In multiple sala stations where there are no special courts designated for the purpose, the cases shall be raffled among the regular courts therein.
4. Special courts are given 30 days from the date a case is submitted for decision to decide the election contest. …