Bulacan recall vs governor halted

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MALOLOS CITY: Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan has filed a petition before the Malolos Regional Trial Court (RTC) to cite for contempt the officers and employees of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Bulacan for allegedly defying a court order stopping the recall petition against him.

Among the first to receive subpoenas are election officers Mercila N. Del Carmen of Plaridel and Julio Nicanor Guinto of Malolos City, who started the verification of names and signatures of recall petitioners on Wednesday through the order of the Office of the Deputy Executive Director for Operations (ODEDO).

But all election officers have decided to stop the verification process on Friday, March 20.

Guinto, who met with other Bulacan election officers on Thursday night, said they have all agreed in their personal discretion to suspend the verification procedures starting Friday. This came after lawyer Temie Lambino, the Comelec Central Luzon director who took the post as acting Bulacan election supervisor this week, issued another directive on Wednesday night ordering the officers to proceed with the verification.

Lambino, who removed former provincial election supervisor (PES) Jerby Anthony Cortez from “loss of confidence” amid the recall issue, ordered election officers to finish the verification of over 319,000 names and signatures by April 1, or 15 days after it started, in accordance with the Comelec rules and procedures on recall.

But Lambino’s order was not followed because of the existing temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Malolos Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 83 on March 6, 2015, enjoining the provincial election supervisor and election officers from “conducting further proceedings in connection with the recall proceedings” against Alvarado.

In his memorandum sent to Lambino, Guinto said he decided to “discontinue with the verification proceedings as it is his firm belief that any furtherance of such proceedings under your [Lambino] authority as such PES is covered by the TRO.”

Guinto, a lawyer, said that while he is “fully aware” of the Comelec’s position that the RTC has no jurisdiction over them, the TRO “remains to this date a lawful and valid order of the court which should be obeyed unless otherwise ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Compliant with TRO

He explained that he started with the verification procedures because the initial order to proceed with verification came from the ODEDA, and not from the PES, making it compliant with the TRO.

Guinto said aside from him, 16 Comelec employees working as verifiers and checkers in Malolos election office, 14 of them came from the Comelec Pampanga office, are included in the complaint.

Del Carmen, Plaridel election officer, confirmed that they have stopped the verification procedures on Friday. She said they are still uncertain on when the verifications will resume.

Asked about the charges of contempt filed against her and six checkers and verifiers working in her office, Del Carmen said it is their right to resort to legal remedies.

“Karapatan po nila [Alvarado] yun the same way na karapatan ko din
na sumunod sa order/directive ng mga nakatataas sa akin [It’s their right [to file charges]the same way as I have the right to follow order/directive from the superiors],” she said
.
The first hearing was held on Friday. The Comelec said it will defend its employees and officers from the charges.

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