Puerto mayor says Comelec halted signature verification in recall, but video shows him disrupting it
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MANILA - (UPDATED 11: 03 P.M.) A video posted on YouTube showing an angry Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo R. Bayron disrupting Comelec's validation of signatures in a recall petition against him has gone viral. This, even as the mayor claimed in an earlier statement that the Commission on Elections had arbitrarily suspended its verification proceedings on the recall petition seeking his ouster.
The validation, he stressed, is crucial because it will show up "fake" signatures in the petition.
The verification, Bayron said, was stopped last Saturday even though thousands of signatures had yet to be examined and verified.
The verification is crucial as it would validate the legitimacy of the recall petition filed against Bayron by Alroben Goh, who complained earlier that residents have lost confidence in the mayor.
But the video posted on YouTube tells a version quite different from Bayron's story: tagged "Desperadong Mayor," it shows Bayron barging into the poll body’s operations at the city coliseum last Saturday, Feb. 28. He confronted the Comelec officer in charge Mon Garduce, tore up an official resolution which he did not like and practically disrupting the entire proceedings.
According to Goh, lead convenor of the Puerto Princesa Recall Movement, the entire Comelec team was stopped from doing its tasks and thrown out of the Puerto Princesa coliseum where recall proceedings were being conducted. The furor happened just as the nine-day verification process of the recall petition - ordered by the Comelec and subsequently, by the Supreme Court - was about to be completed.
Mayor Bayron, with bodyguards in tow, barged into the Comelec operations venue and confronted Comelec officer Mon Garduce over a Comelec resolution which infuriated him, according to Goh.
That Comelec resolution, issued by Comelec election officer Orlando Ba-alan, actually ordered the extension of verification proceedings until 11:59 pm the same day because there were only 1,000 signatures - out of a total 40,000 - left for verification.
Goh said Bayron was apparently upset because he wanted the verification process terminated right then and there.
The enraged Bayron at one point grabbed the copy of the poll body's order while Garduce was explaining it to him and then tore it up, Goh said.
Moments later, the Puerto Princesa coliseum manager and a Bayron appointee, someone named Buddy Tinay, ordered the stoppage of the Comelec proceedings and threw out of the coliseum the poll body’s operations team, Goh said.
Tinay allegedly grabbed the microphone from election officer Garduce and told the crowd that he was not allowing the verification proceedings to continue in the venue, according to Goh.
It was learned that the Comelec leased from City Hall the coliseum space for the verification proceedings. Stopping the verification and throwing out the Comelec operations team from the venue constitutes serious legal violations, Goh added.
Bayron's supporters from the bleachers section then flocked to the coliseum floor where the proceedings were being held, forcing Comelec officials to adjourn, Goh said.
Apparently fearing for their safety, the city Comelec officials decided to move to the office of the provincial election officer near City Hall to finish the verification proceedings.
Comelec Officer Ba-alan was later quoted saying that he (Ba-alan) “would issue the decision on the verification within 24 hours in compliance with Comelec recall procedures and guidelines.”
Comelec rules on recall mandate local officials of the poll body to send the results of the verification of signatures to the Comelec en banc for decision.
The petitioner party will be given three days to appeal the decision; and the Comelec en banc will decide on that appeal within 15 days.
The Comelec's en banc decision, at this stage of the recall petition, will be final and executory.
Meanwhile, Goh and members of the Puerto Princesa City Recall Coalition assailed the failure of the city police headed by Police Senior Supt. Edgardo G. Wycoco to stop the disruption of the verification proceedings by Bayron’s rowdy supporters.
The recall coalition will file a complaint against Wycoco and the Puerto Princesa City police force with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and acting PNP Chief Leonardo Espina, added Goh.
'Sham recall bid'
Earlier, Bayron described the halt to the validation - which he blamed on the Comelec - as “an obvious attempt to railroad the implementation of a sham recall election that was already exposed to contain thousands of fraudulent signatures including signatures of dead people.”
He claimed that of the 35,731 signatures in the petition, only 32,322 have been examined and verified.
He said a total of 3,409 signatures have yet to be verified, "but the election officer assigned to this petition abruptly ended the verification process without offering any justification at all. Clearly, the election officer has unfinished business.”
Bayron claimed the development “unmistakably shows a total disregard for well-established processes, and exposes the petition as an abused course of action to get rid of me at all costs, violating certain rules at the expense of public funds.” With a report from Jet Villa, InterAksyon.com