Recall Panlilio launched

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    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO- A newly formed group called Kapanalig at Kambilan ning Memalen Pampanga, Inc. (Kambilan) launched here yesterday a signature drive to recall priest-turned-governor Eddie Panlilio from his post and pave the way for the holding of special gubernatorial elections in this province.
    “The governor has lost the confidence of the people. There is too much disunity and disharmony in his administration,” Kambilan president Rosve Henson, a former councilor in this city, told Punto! in an interview before the official launching of the recall move held at a restaurant some four kilometers from the provincial capitol.
    He and 10 other incorporators of Kambilan, which was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last July 21, were the first to sign the recall petition. The recall move would be funded by donors from business and other sectors in Pampanga, he also said.
    Henson noted that under the law providing for the recall of an elected official, about 10 percent or about 100,000 of the signatures of the province’s 997,000 registered voters would be needed for the recall move to justify the holding of special gubernatorial polls.
    “We already have 5,000 card-carrying members who will help garner signatures from all over the province,” he said.
    He said that if enough signatures are gathered in the next two months and the recall move is approved as “sufficient in form and substance” by the Comelec, special gubernatorial polls could be held before May next year.
    The one-page petition addressed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Panlilio was being recalled for “loss of confidence occasioned by his gross violation of pertinent provisions of the Civil Service Law, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Republic Act 6713 otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and for grave misconduct in office.”
    In a telephone interview, Panlilio seemed unperturbed by the recall move, saying “it’s part of the people’s right to express themselves.”
    “Talk about a recall move against me has been floating since last year, so this development is not surprising,” he said, expressing hope that the conduct of the campaign would be peaceful and orderly.
    Panlilio said, however, that the recall initiative seemed “politically motivated”.
    In last year’s May elections, Panlilio won over former provincial board member Lilia Pineda whose electoral protest has remained pending before the Supreme Court. Pineda’s son, Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda, is the president of the Pampanga Mayors’ League (PML) which has been critical of the Panlilio administration.
    Henson said that PML had committed to back up the signature drive, but he insisted that no politician authored the recall move. He also said the launching of the recall initiative was not timed with the anniversary yesterday of the martyrdom of former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino.
    Henson, however, admitted that during last year’s elections, he had been an “avid campaigner” for Pineda. “She was the most appropriate and qualified candidate, but we accepted the outcome of the elections,” he said.
    He also said that his group’s director Sancho de Jesus had campaigned for Pineda. De Jesus sat to his right during yesterday’s petition signing rites.
    In his briefing before he and Kambilan incorporators signed the recall petition, Henson also cited controversies surrounding Panlilio’s provincial administrator Atty. Vivian Dabu, whose ouster is now being sought by former lahar sand quarry workers at the provincial capitol.
    Panlilio said, however, that despite criticisms against Dabu, he would retain her. He described Dabu as “honest and competent”, adding that “she should be there (in her post)”.
    The priest-turned-governor also said he would monitor developments on the recall move “so we can know the reasons for it and air our side”.
    Henson said, however, that the possible holding of a special elections for governor would even be beneficial to Panlilio.
    He said victory for Panlilio in such polls would “strengthen his mandate”.
    “Since he won only by a slight margin amid controversies in the last elections, there is always question on his mandate. His victory in a special polls would solve this situation,” Henson said.
    Henson also justified the recall move instead of just waiting for the elections in 2010, saying that all other means, such as dialog, have already been exhausted. “We can’t wait one and a half years losing opportunities,” he added.
    Henson said that the “biggest argument” that favored the recall move was the reported turnaround of Panlilio’s avid supporters in the last gubernatorial elections.
    Last Wednesday, 17 of Panlilio’s former supporters from civil society, including his former campaign manager and spokesperson Averell Laquindanum, met with Vice Gov. Joseller Guiao and members of the provincial board who have been at odds with the governor on various issues. The meeting led to various commitments of the board, as requested by the civil society members, including the declaration of the Arnedo Park in front of the capitol building as freedom park.
    But Panlilio denied that the civil society leaders had abandoned him.
    A statement released yesterday by Laquindanum’s group after its meeting with the provincial board said “a lot of time has been wasted on fingerpointing and squabbling over non-issues. More than hurting our pride, the wounds of divisions have been hurting our beloved Pampanga by stifling its growth and progress”.
    “Pampanga is now regarded by many Filipinos as a beacon of light and a wellspring of hope for genuine reforms in Philippine society. We can only continue being so if we set aside loyalty to personalities in favor of loyalty to the cause which is Pampanga’s development through the exercise of good governance and responsible citizenship,” the statement also said.
    Henson said that should the Comelec approve the holding of local special polls for governor, it would be up to Panlilio and other interested parties to run for the post. There are reports that Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo would then be fielded by Pineda’s camp to run for governor, with Pineda seeking only the vice gubernatorial post, but no one could confirm this immediately.

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