MALOLOS CITY: Bulacan election officials have asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc to issue a ruling on a petition to recall Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado following legal skirmishes that served to delay the proceedings.
In a letter dated March 23, 2015, election officers said they would proceed with their mandate to process the recall petition while at the same time admitting that the delay had cast doubt on their ability to finish with the recall elections before the Comelec ban. In their petition, they also noted the “emotional and physical exhaustion” that they had been subjected to.
Bulacan Comelec officers have argued that the petition had been unnecessarily exposed them to risks and charges and had subjected them to subtle threats. “We are caught not only in the middle of the legal tussle between two warring political camps, but also in the crossfire as we face several lawsuits that are criminal in nature as, more charges from both camps as well as verbal and other kinds of harassment,” they said.
“Honorable Commissioners, we are physically, mentally, and emotionally drained by the constant harassment and threats by the parties in the recall petition,” election officers said in their letter, sent through Regional Election Director Temie Lambino, who concurrently serves as the acting provincial election supervisor.
Earlier, Alvarado had filed a petition before the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 83 asking that the election officers be cited for indirect contempt for defying a temporary restraining order (RTC) the court issued on March 6, 2013 stopping the electoral recall.
The TRO was lifted on Friday last week after Judge Guillermo Agloro of Branch 83 junked Alvarado’s petition for injunction in case which the TRO emanated. The court has cleared the Comelec to proceed with the recall.
Election officers had noted the short time left as it only has 48 days remaining from Monday, March 23, to complete the recall election. According to the Resolution No. 7505, or the rules and regulations governing recall, the Comelec should hold the recall one year before the next year’s election, which is scheduled on May 8, 2016.
Currently, the elections officers are still in the early stage of verifying the names and signatures of over 319,000 individuals who signed the petition. While it started on Wednesday, March 18, election officers decided to stop the procedures on Thursday and Friday over issues of its legality. All 24 election office resumed their verification on Monday. Based on Comelec rules they should finish the verification process by April 1.
The Bulacan Comelec officers said they are hard pressed in preparing for the recall polls. “Is there enough time to prepare for the recall election? Is there enough time for the printing of the election ballots including the prior bidding process therefore?” election officers asked. “Is there enough time to organize and train the Board of Election Inspectors?”
The election officers likened themselves to “soldiers being sent into combat without weapons” when they started with the verification process.
The election officers, who came from 21 municipalities and three component cities of Bulacan, lamented that they are asked to look for accommodation of their augmentation verifiers from other provinces without the Comelec allocating budget for it. They also mentioned that they were ordered to proceed with the verification process despite the pending legal threats.
“Imagine being dragged into court and face charges of indirect contempt while our generals still command us to attack without making moves to neutralize the heavy bombardment pounding the foot soldiers,” they said.
The election officers are asking Comelec to decide whether their actions are worth the sacrifice or it would be better if it would stop the procedures as early as possible, given the limits of the situation.
They cited the case of recall elections in March 2012 when Comelec ordered ordered a halt to all recall petitions due to budgetary constraints and time limitations.
“We respectfully ask Your Honors if the remaining time that we have at this point would still suffice to hold the recall elections. If not, it is in your hands to lift the order to proceed,” they said.