results, but when the ballot boxes of 247 out of 248 precincts were opened during revision, they yielded no ballots and other election documents, protestant asserts that determination of votes of the parties should be based on sources other than the missing ballots. 27. SEMA VS. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES This is a case for petition to declare the HRET Resolution null and void ab initio. FACTS: • • • • On 12 June 2007, protestant Bai Sandra S.A. Sema, a congressional candidate of the LakasCMD who obtained 87,237 votes or 18,345vote difference from protestee Dilangalen, who obtained 105,582 votes, filed an election protest against Dilangalen for allege that a total of 195 precincts of the Municipality of Datu Odin Sinsuat of the Lone District of Shariff Kabunsuan with Cotabato City, based on different grounds such as anomalies on how the votes were read and controversies on the ballots and election returns. On July 19, 2007 – Dilangalen filed an Answer with Counter-Protest, counter-protesting 198 clustered/merged precincts in Sultan Kudarat and 50 precincts in Sultan Mastura on the grounds such as how the supporters of Sema have made fraud in the counting of votes, how votes were written, vote buying, and connivance of Sema with BEI, to name a few. Tribunal discovered that only one (1) out of the 248 ballot boxes of the counter-protested precincts contained ballots. The other 247 counter-protested ballots were totally empty or did not contain ballots and election documents. Sema and Dilangalen filed their formal offer of evidence and comments, one after the other. • Protestant – seeks a resolution to reject votes of protestee and consider that votes were thwarted by election fraud. • Protestee – countered protestant’s allegation of fraud invoking that the official ballots, election returns and other election documents were distributed to the BEIs of municipality of Datu Odin Sinsuat. • In contrast to her position in respect to the votes in Datu Odin Sinsuat, as regards the counter-protested precincts in Sultan Kudarat and Sultan Mastura, where protestant was shown to have attained higher number of votes than protestee based on available official • HRET issued the Assailed decision. HRET found that majority of the ballots in the 195 protested precincts of Datu Odin Sinsuat were rejected as fake or spurious ballots since they did not contain security features described by COMELEC Commissioner • It was also pointed out that “Reports on Revision Results, duly signed by both parties’ revisors, showed that during the revision, all the ballot boxes in the 195 protested precincts of Datu Odin Sinsuat had no self-locking metal seals x x x, [t]hus, it cannot be conclusively stated, that the ballot boxes at the time that they were opened for revision purposes were in the same condition as they were when closed by the Chairman and Members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) after the completion of the canvassing proceedings.” • On the other hand, only one (1) out of the 248 ballot boxes of the counter-protested precincts contained ballots. • HRET ruled that petitioner failed to prove by convincing evidence that the election itself, conducted on May 14, 2007, was tainted by fraud and irregularities that frustrated the will of the electorate. • HRET concluded that the ballots and/or ballot boxes must have been tampered with after the elections and the counting and canvassing of votes. Thus, the HRET relied on the election returns and other election documents to arrive at the number of votes validly cast for petitioner and respondent Dilangalen. Hence, the Tribunal Dismissed the Election protest. • MR of Petitioner was denied hence this petition. ISSUE: Whether the HRET committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction by relying on election returns and other election documents, instead of the ballots themselves, in determining who actually won in the May 14, 2007 congressional elections for the Lone District of Shariff Kabunsuan with Cotabato City. RULING: NO. The Supreme Court held that the petition was unmeritorious. First. Court emphasized that this Court is not a trier of facts and its jurisdiction to review decisions and orders of electoral tribunals is exercised only upon a showing of grave abuse of discretion committed by the tribunal. emphasized that this Court is not a trier of facts and its jurisdiction to review decisions and orders of electoral tribunals is exercised only upon a showing of grave abuse of discretion committed by the tribunal. Absent such grave abuse of discretion, this Court shall not interfere with the electoral tribunal’s exercise of its discretion or jurisdiction.5 Grave abuse of discretion has been described is a jurisprudence as: Grave abuse of discretion means such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as would amount to lack of jurisdiction which contemplates a situation where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by law. There is no cavil of doubt as to the factual findings regarding the fake ballots in the 195 precincts in Datu Odin Sinsuat, or the lost ballots for the 247 ballots boxes from the counter-protested precincts. What petitioner questions is the Tribunal’s reliance on election returns and/or tally sheets and other election documents to arrive at the number of votes for each of the parties. However, jurisprudence has established that such action of the HRET was well within its discretion and jurisdiction. Since it is undisputed that there are hardly any valid or authentic ballots upon which the HRET could base its determination of the number of votes cast for each of the parties, the HRET merely acted in accordance with settled jurisprudence when it resorted to untampered and/or unaltered election returns and other election documents as evidence of such votes. In sum, there is no showing whatsoever that the HRET committed grave abuse of discretion.