Why is Comelec delaying recall election?
My New Year wish for you, dear reader, is that after all that merrymaking the other night, you still have all your fingers. May the new year make you as lucky and as resistant to temptation.
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The Commission on Elections (Comelec) under Chair Sixto Brillantes should begin the new year right by no longer dredging up excuses to stave off recall elections in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, to protect the sitting mayor, Lucilo R. Bayron.
Alcoben J. Goh, on March 17, 2014, filed in the Comelec a recall petition against Mayor Bayron due to loss of trust and confidence brought about by “gross violation of pertinent provisions of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, gross violation of pertinent provisions of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, incompetence and other related gross inexcusable negligence/dereliction of duty, intellectual dishonesty, and emotional immaturity as Mayor of Puerto Princesa City.”
On April 1, 2014, the Comelec promulgated Resolution No. 9864, which found the recall petition sufficient in form and substance, but suspended all recall elections for alleged lack of funds.
On April 28, 2014, Mayor Bayron filed in the Comelec a petition for the dismissal of the recall petition for lack of merit. On May 19, 2014, Goh filed a comment/opposition to Bayron’s petition with prayer for the Comelec to direct its representative to immediately carry out the publication of the recall petition against Mayor Bayron, the verification process and the recall election.
On May 27, 2014, the Comelec promulgated Resolution No. 9882 that suspended all recall elections as it “does not have a line item budget or legal authority to commit public funds for the purpose.” The resolution said that until Congress passes a law appropriating funds for recall elections, “all proceedings relative to … recall elections” are suspended.
The case was elevated to the Supreme Court which, in a 12-0 vote on Nov. 25, 2014, held that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion by issuing the two resolutions—9864 and 9882.
In anticipation of the high court’s ruling, the Comelec issued another resolution (No. 9912) on Nov. 18, 2014, partially lifting the suspension by allowing recall petitioners to undertake the publication and posting process—which consumes three weeks in processing time—prior to the verification process.
Before publication and posting can be undertaken, however, the rules on recall procedure require that any motion for reconsideration filed by an aggrieved party must first be resolved, holding in abeyance any further action.
Mayor Bayron had filed an omnibus motion for reconsideration and clarification on April 27, 2014. To date, this has not been resolved by the Comelec en banc. Question: Why does the Comelec need more than eight months to resolve a motion for reconsideration? The issues raised in that motion were also raised by Bayron when he filed his comment to Gohís petition for certiorari and were set aside by the Supreme Court. So what is the Comelec waiting for? Why has it not acted to deny this MR so that publication, posting and verification can proceed without delay?
It turns out that Resolution No. 9912 is nothing but a sham, as not one of the five pending recall petitions can proceed with verification and posting.
The writing of the decision to deny Bayron’s MR was assigned to Commissioner Luie Guia and was scheduled for resolution by the en banc session on Dec. 16. 2014. However, it was not taken up during that session, and one can only suspect that this was done so that a supplemental motion for reconsideration can be filed by Bayron to further delay the proceedings.
The supplemental motion for reconsideration filed by Bayron on Dec. 15, 2014 alleged that out of 40,409 signatures supporting the recall, only 14,220 are valid, short by 5,115 to meet the required 19,335 signatures for a recall election. Bayron preempted the Comelec’s verification process, which is undertaken only after the required publication and posting to determine if the signatures on the petition belong to registered voters with active status and are not falsified.
The prerogative belongs only to the Comelec, and not to the elected official being recalled, whose findings can only be self-serving. Bayron’s supplemental motion only shows the need for the official verification to resolve any doubts about the signatures’ veracity. But the motion has earned Bayron additional time to further delay the proceedings.
A recall election can be done only one year after the recalled official’s assumption to office and one year before the next scheduled regular election, in essence between July 1, 2014 and May 8, 2015. The petition to recall was filed on March 17, 2014, and the Comelec resolution affirmed on April 1, 2014, that the petition was sufficient in form and substance. Since then the petition has not moved, and even the publication and posting process, which is done at the expense of the petitioner, has been held in abeyance by the Comelec. Should the Comelec further entertain Bayron’s supplemental motion, the process would further be delayed.
It is obvious that the ploy is to run the clock down. If the verification process is not completed by March 2015, there will not be enough time to hold the recall election against Bayron.
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