Comelec’s 15-day deadline to decide on recall lapses

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    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has apparently breached its 15-day deadline to decide on the recall petition against Gov. Eddie T. Panlilio amid his plea to quash the recall move against him.

    Still, the Comelec en banc is expected to issue its verdict anytime on whether or not special gubernatorial polls are to be held in this province.

    In an interview, Comelec field officer for Central Luzon Teresita Ocampo said that the recall petition was forwarded to the Comelec en banc on the same day it was submitted by Comelec provincial officer Temmie Lambino last Oct. 14.

    Lambino earlier noted that the law prescribes 15 days for the Comelec en banc to decide on the recall petition submitted to it, or up to last Oct. 30 in the case of the recall petition against Panlilio Vice Gov. Joseller Guiao, who was among the some 224,000 signatories in the petition citing loss of confidence in Panlilio’s leadership, said that Panlilio’s petition to quash the recall move might have delayed the Comelec en banc’s verdict on the case.

    After confirming that the recall petition was valid in “form and substance”, Lambino forwarded it to Comelec deputy executive director for operations Bartolome Sinocruz who, in turn, re-examined the petition before submitting it to the Comelec en banc.

    Ocampo recalled that she helped come out with the draft recommending the recall petition to the Comelec en banc on the same day the petition was submitted by Lambino last Oct. 14. “The petition reached the Comelec en banc on the same day we received it on Oct. 14,” she said.

    She said the Comelec en banc is expected to issue its verdict anytime.
    Last week, Panlilio petitioned the Comelec to “deny due course” to the recall petition against him.

    In his petition prepared by his lawyer Ernesto Francisco, Jr., Panlilio cited four grounds for the Comelec to deny the recall move.

    He said the petition did not contain a “brief narration of the reasons and justifications”, had “signatures of persons who are not registered voters of Pampanga”, did not comply with Comelec rules and regulations on the verification of petition signatures, and is “premature and barred” by the electoral protest filed by Lilia Pineda who lost to him in last year’s gubernatorial race by 1,147 votes.

    The respondents in the petition included Lambino, Sinocruz, and Rosve Henson whose group Kapanalig at Kambilan ning Memalen Pampanga (Kambilan) launched the recall petition.

    This, even as Guiao said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is prepared to challenge the view of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that only Panlilio is authorized by law to appropriate the needed P24 million for a special polls that could arise from the recall petition.

    “Such funding would be inimical to his interest and we don’t expect him to approve it,” Guiao said.

    Comelec chair Jose Melo earlier said his agency does not have funds for recall elections.
    “The interest of the province is paramount in this case so we will insist on the right to appropriate funds for special elections should the Comelec decide favorably on the recall issue,” he said.

    But Guiao said provincial board members, who all signed the recall petition, would first wait for the Comelec’s final verdict. “Should it declare the petition valid and announce the holding of special polls, we would wait for it to seek the needed funds. If not, the other alternative would be to petition it to seek funds from the special funds from the General Appropriations,” he added.

    Lambino said some P24 million would be needed if special elections, including the counting of votes, are finished in one day, P37 million in two days, and P52 million in three days.

    Lambino said the recall petition’s timetable could be affected if Panlilio files a protest before the Comelec, explaining that the law allows recall polls to be held only up to May 9 next year, or one year before the next elections.

    Guiao, however, expressed confidence that the Comelec or the courts who would handle any protest case against the recall petition would likely immediately decide on such case.

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