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It’s final: Comelec has 1 month left for Puerto Princesa recall polls

Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron can no longer stop recall elections against him because the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already began preparing for them.

This was the reason cited by the Supreme Court in dismissing a motion for reconsideration filed by Bayron seeking to overturn a November 2014 decision of the tribunal giving the green light for the recall polls.

At the same time, the SC said the Comelec—under the law—only has exactly one month left to conduct the recall elections.

"We see no reason to grant petitioner's Omnibus Motion in view of the Comelec's narration of the activities it has already conducted relative to the subject recall petition," ruled the SC, sitting en banc in its first summer session in Baguio CIty this year.

In its comment to Bayron's MR, the Comelec explained that it has already "undertaken proceedings preparatory" to the recall election.

The SC however reminded that poll body to consider the legislated time limit for the conduct of the recall elections as mandated under Section 74(b) of Republic Act 7160.

The law states that recall elections can only be held either within one year from the official's assumption to office or one year before a regular local election.

Since the next regular local election, which is also a national election, is the May 9, 2016 elections, it would mean the Comelec only has until May 8 to conduct the recall elections in Puerto Princesa, the SC explained.

In the budget

In its original ruling in November last year, the high court granted the petition filed by Alroben Goh against Comelec Resolution Nos. 9864 and 9882, which suspended recall proceedings against Bayron due to budget constraints.

The SC, however, emphasized in its decision the Comelec's fiscal autonomy and the poll chairman's authority to augment items in its appropriations from savings.

The SC noted that the 2014 General Appropriations Act actually "expressly provides" for a line item appropriation for the conduct and supervision of recall elections.

The SC said this provision is found in the "Programs" category of its 2014 budget, which the Comelec admitted in its Resolution No. 9882 is a “line item for the ‘Conduct and supervision of elections, referenda, recall votes and plebiscites.’”

The high tribunal noted that one of the specific functions of the Comelec is to conduct recall elections. It added that holding recall polls is among the functions of the poll body for which appropriations can be made.

"Should the funds appropriated in the 2014 GAA be deemed insufficient, then the Comelec chairman may exercise his authority to augment such line item appropriation from the Comelec's existing savings, as this augmentation is equally authorized in the 2014 GAA," it added.

Goh, a former city administrator of Puerto Princesa, filed the recall petition against Bayron, citing the loss of trust and confidence in the mayor.

The recall petition was signed by 40,409 registered voters of Puerto Princesa. Only 19,335 signatures are needed for recall proceedings to push through.

The recall of an elective official shall be effective upon the election and proclamation of a successor who received the most number of votes during the recall polls.

The official subject of a recall petition may continue to hold office if he or she ends up with the highest number of votes during the recall elections, an indication that confidence in him or her has been affirmed.

The Comelec had earlier affirmed the recommendation of the Office of the Deputy Executive Director finding the petition seeking the recall of respondent Mayor Bayron sufficient in form and substance.

The Comelec resolution, however, suspended the recall proceedings because of an issue raised on funding. — BM, GMA News