CITY OF SAN FERNANDO —A group supportive of Gov. Eddie Panlilio on Wednesday reported irregularities in the way the Kapanalig at Kambilan Ning Memalen Pampanga Inc. (Kambilan) has been gathering signatures for its recall petition to unseat the Catholic priest-turned-governor.
Citing reports from the barangay chapters of the Kasaup King Bayung Kapampangan (Kasaup), the group’s chair, Dr. Jose Mari Sandico, said Kambilan volunteers in Barangay Sto. Tomas, Lubao have been “collecting recall signatures, saying they are giving new voters ID (identification cards).”
In Barangay Bulac, Minalin, Sandico said village officials are “already collecting signatures from their barriomates against their will.”
In Porac, he said barangay captains have been mobilized, being given recall petition forms on Wednesday and ordered to collect 2,000 to 4,000 signatures.
While the use of deceit, force and money are prohibited, local officials can be involved in the gathering of signatures because recall proceedings are a political exercise, according to an official of the Commission on Elections in Pampanga. He did not want to be named because if the recall petition prospers, it will be filed with the poll body.
Sandico said all 500 Kasaup chapters have been advised to be vigilant against the use of deceit, force and money in the signature-gathering campaign.
Since its announcement of the recall petition on Aug. 21, Kambilan has been targeting to muster 100,000 signatures from the 977,000 voters in Pampanga who registered in the May 2007 elections.
That number is the first requisite in the filing of a recall petition through a people’s initiative, according to Kambilan chair Rosve Henson.
He dispelled Kasaup’s claims as “disinformation.”
“I traced that to Pastor Joel Santos of Kasaup. I heard that first from him last night when he spoke in the program of Pia Hontiveros,” Henson said by phone.
According to him, Kasaup leaders might have misunderstood Kambilan’s recruitment process in the villages.
“We are recruiting volunteers who will gather signatures. They will be given IDs. Pag ayaw, di pinipilit (When they don’t approve of it, we don’t force them to be volunteers),” he explained.
So far, he said Kambilan now has 6,000 volunteers.
According to Henson, they are being trained to explain to the registered voters the issues on why Panlilio should be recalled from office. When that is done, the petition is presented for signing. The petition form should be signed 12 times, he said.
Kambilan has not yet tallied the number of signatures as of Wednesday, he said. “But we’re getting good responses,” Henson added.
CHURCH LEADERS’ POSITION
On Tuesday in Guagua, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of Manila expressed confidence in the leadership of Panlilio, currently the only Catholic priest elected into a public office.Sought for comments on the recall petition, Rosales said: “I don’t know about local politics but knowing of course Ed, he’s a priest, he’s a brother. I know him to be straight man. [This is a case of ] straight man against not-too straight maybe for us.”
Panlilio’s own archbishop, Paciano Aniceto, respected the recall move by the Kambilan even as Henson was a former campaigner of losing gubernatorial candidate Lilia Pineda.
Said Aniceto: “It’s a prerogative of any citizen to bring to a pertinent forum certain concerns like this recall.”
Aniceto, however, called for “sobriety and reason.”
Pampanga Bishop Roberto Mallari said he was not surprised by the recall campaign because it was a possibility floated around since Panlilio assumed office on June 30 last year.
“It happened that there was a problem with the quarry workers so it became an occasion for his critics to ride on the situation. In my perception, the quarry workers protested because they wanted reforms, to express their complaints to the governor, not to make him resign or be recalled,” Mallari said in mixed Filipino and English.
“Gusto ko sanang pakiusapan itong nagsusulong ng recall to stop this kasi nakadagdag pang problema sa probinsya natin at sa buong bansa (I want to appeal to the proponents of recall to stop this because it adds up to the problems in our province and the whole country,” the bishop further said.
“If they find something wrong in his governance, they have to tell him straight. I invite our government leaders, mayors, provincial board members to start to really help, to make concrete steps to seriously extend their help to the governor,” he said.
Pampanga Bishop Pablo Virgilio David favored reforms but rejected the recall petition or calls for Panlilio to resign.