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‘Dribbling the ball’ on Puerto recall petition

/ 12:32 AM March 23, 2015

Pressure must be very great on the Commission on Elections and the prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman to “dribble the ball” on the election and criminal cases against Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo R. Bayron. The recall petition against Bayron was filed on March 17, 2014. That’s one year ago, but the Comelec has yet to act with finality on the case in spite of the fact that all requirements have been met. There is a deadline, May 8, after which recall elections can no longer be held. That deadline is fast approaching. The Comelec is supposed to meet en banc tomorrow. Will the commissioners finally shake their lethargy and decide on the case with finality?

The recall petition has taken a long, circuitous route. A total of 40,409 registered voters of Puerto Princesa signed the petition initiated by Alroben Goh, lead convener of the Yes to Recall Movement. Only 15,336 signatures are needed for the recall polls to proceed.

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From the streets of the city to the Comelec and, as in most contentious electoral jousts, the recall petition ended up in the Supreme Court. On Nov. 26 last year, the tribunal, voting unanimously, ordered the Comelec to hold recall election proceedings against Bayron when it set aside two resolutions of the poll body that suspended all recall proceedings in the country allegedly for lack of funds.

Since then, the recall process in Puerto Princesa began to move but was stymied by appeals and motions for reconsideration filed by Bayron’s lawyers in the Comelec and the Supreme Court.

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The last-ditch effort of Bayron to thwart his recall was a petition in the Supreme Court early this year, questioning the one-year limitation of a recall election under the Local Government Code. Should it be counted from the filing of the petition or from the conduct of the recall proceeding itself?

Last February, the tribunal dismissed Bayron’s petition and declared that the issue of the sufficiency of the recall election for mayor of Puerto Princesa has been decided with finality. The decision paved the way for the verification of the signatures in the recall petition.

The verification process started last Feb. 20 and was completed Feb. 28. The verification report was immediately submitted to the Comelec head office by Orlando Ba-alan, acting city election officer.

Last Saturday, March 21, was the end of the 13-day reglementary period for the Comelec en banc to decide on the verification report on the signatures to recall Bayron and clear the way for the election. Apparently, the en banc has not acted on the verification report for nearly a month after its submission. The recall election must be held before May 9, the cut-off date specified by law for any recall election to be held.

The law on recall elections stipulates that they be held at least one year before the regular elections for local officials. The Comelec should decide on the Puerto recall poll now, otherwise all the efforts to make the people’s initiative in the city a reality would go to waste.

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On the criminal case against Bayron, the Ombudsman has issued instructions to all prosecutors to finish all the cases against elective officials by Feb. 28 this year. That’s one month ago.

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Puerto Princesa citizens are wondering why the Ombudsman has not acted on the graft and corruption charges filed on

May 23 last year against Mayor Bayron and his son, Karl M. Bayron.

The charges stemmed from the allegedly illegal appointment by the mayor of his son as a program manager in the city government from July 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2013.

The complaint alleges that Mayor Bayron violated various administrative and criminal laws against nepotism, committing the crimes of perjury and falsification of public documents as well. Both father and son are also accused of violating the Revised Penal Code provision on falsification of public documents and making untruthful statements when they declared under oath that they were not related to each other within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity.

However, the truth is they are first degree relatives by consanguinity. Respondent Karl M. Bayron is the biological son of respondent Mayor Lucilo Bayron.

Mayor Bayron’s sheer audacity and abuse of authority will cost him not only his job but also a permanent ban from holding public office. At the same time, it will earn him a stint behind bars in the company of his son. Both will also be required to reimburse the government P96,000 representing wages paid to the son for the illegal appointment.

The complaint against Mayor Bayron also includes administrative charges for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the public service, and conduct unbecoming of a public officer.

The graft case against Mayor Bayron shows the hubris and arrogance and tendency of public officials to abuse power and authority for selfish interests.

Evidently, when Mayron Bayron took his oath of office, he was either ignorant of or simply disregarded Section 1, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, which is on the

Accountability of Public Officers.

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KAPIHAN NOTES: Guests at this morning’s Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel are Sen. Chiz Escudero and former senator Nene Pimentel on their views on the PNP board of inquiry and Senate reports on the Mamasapano massacre.

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