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Masangcay vs. COMELEC
G..R No. L-13827
On October 24, 1957, Benjamin Masangacay—then provincial treasurer of Aklan designated to take charge of the receipt and custody of the official ballots, election forms and supplies, as well as of their distribution, among the different municipalities of the province—with several others, was charged before the COMELE with contempt for having opened three boxes containing official and sample ballots for the municipalities of the province of Aklan, in violation of the instructions of said Commission embodied in its resolution promulgated on September 2, 1957, and its unnumbered resolution dated March 5,1957, inasmuch as he opened said boxes not in the presence of the division superintendent of schools of Aklan, the province auditor, and the authorizeD representatives of the Nacionalista Party, the Liberal Party and the Citizens’ Party, as required, which are punishable under Sec. 5 of the Revised Election Code and Rule 64 of the Rules of Court. Masangcay brought the present petition for review raising as main issue the constitutionality of Sec. 5 of the Revised Election Code which grants the COMELEC as well as its members the power to punish acts of contempt against said body under the same procedure and with the same penalties provided for in Rule 64 of the Rules of Court in that the portion of said section which grants the Commission and members the power to punish for contempt is unconstitutional for it infringes the principle underlying the separation of powers that exists among the three departments of our constitutional form of government.
Whether or not COMELEC may punish Masangcay for contempt.
No. COMELEC lacks power to impose the disciplinary penalty meted out to petitioner in the decision subject of review. When the Commission exercises a ministerial function it cannot exercise the power to punish for contempt because such power is inherently judicial in nature. The power to punish for contempt is inherent in all courts; its existence is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings, and to the enforcement of judgments, orders and mandates of courts, and, consequently, in the administration of justice. Under the law and the constitution, the COMELEC has not only the duty to enforce and administer all laws relative to the conduct of the elections. But also the power to try, hear and decide any controversy that may be submitted to it in connection with the elections. The Commission, although it cannot be classified as a court of justice within the meaning of the Constitution for it is merely an administrative body, may however exercise quasi-judicial functions insofar as controversies that by express provision of law come under its jurisdiction.