Comelec halts all recall cases
Tonette Orejas Central Luzon Desk
November 14, 2008
The Philippine Daily Inquirer
BALANGA CITY, Philippines—The Commission on Elections has stopped acting on all recall cases in the country due to lack of funds, effectively freezing moves to unseat local officials including Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio, according to the governor’s lawyer.
Recall petitions had been virtually put in the back burner after the Comelec en banc issued Resolution No. 8547, lawyer Romulo Macalintal disclosed Friday.
Comelec legal officer Ferdinand Rafanan confirmed in a telephone interview the issuance of the resolution on Thursday.
Rafanan said the poll body would “suspend actions on all recall petition filed and pending before this commission until funds are made available.”
Rafanan said the move followed the failure of Congress to consider the request of the Comelec for additional funds to hold recall elections.
Comelec Chair Jose Melo had said the agency had only a budget of P5 million for all recall cases.
Rafanan could not say how many cases were filed and pending before the commission, saying only that these were numerous.
Melo had estimated that a recall election in Pampanga alone needed P40 million.
“I believe the recall petition against Panlilio, aside from being fatally defective, could no longer move,” Macalintal said.
The Kapanalig at Kambilan ning Memalen Pampanga Inc. (Kambilan) sought to remove Panlilio claiming loss of confidence after the governor refused to implement a new quarry law proposed by mayors. It also called attention to a perjury case dogging Panlilio over his alleged misdeclaration of election campaign contributions and his alleged illegal reassignments of doctors in public hospitals.
The recall petition was filed on October 15.
“It will die a natural death. As a matter of fact, it’s dead,” Macalintal said.
He said time constraints would prevent the holding of recall elections before the one-year ban on such exercises was put in effect in May 2009.
Rosve Henson, Kambilan president, called the suspension a “very sad development for all pending petitions around the country.”
“Citizens will be deprived of their constitutional guarantee to file recall petitions,” Henson said.
He said the recall petition was a “safeguard available to the electorate, and there should be no hindrance or delay for the petition to take its due course, not even funding constraints.”
He said that the lack of funds was not a concern of petitioners, “because as far as we are concerned, the funding requirements of recall are beyond our control.”
Henson added, “What we are after here is the Comelec’s decision on whether or not the recall petition in Pampanga is sufficient in form and substance.”
Vice Governor Joseller Guiao, who supports the recall move against Panlilio, said the recall petition should move forward.
“[The Comelec resolution] does not cover Pampanga. The [signature-gathering] process is finished on the ground. That will apply to prospective petitions,” Guiao said.
Two weeks ago, the Comelec and the Department of Budget and Management shot down proposed Ordinance 294 through which the provincial board planned to allot P25 million for the recall elections against Panlilio.
Citing the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160), the agencies said recall elections should only be funded by the Comelec.
The Comelec said it did not want to seek funds from the DBM because a “recourse [to that agency] might give the impression that since it is under the Office of the President, government funds are being used for the recall of those not politically aligned.”