Cheers, disappointment in Puerto Princesa recall polls
PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – It took 10 long hours and days of tension in Palawan's capital city, but Puerto Princesa finally has a new mayor – and it's the same person who's ruled the city for the past year.
Incumbent mayor Lucilo Bayron survived the recall elections that pitted him against Edward Hagedorn, a former ally who held the top post in the city for 20 years. It was Hagedorn's supporters who filed a petition for recall against Bayron, citing the alleged "loss of trust and confidence" in his leadership.
Bayron tried, but failed, to stop the recall petition. But his 44,299 votes over Hagedorn's 39,002 votes – a difference of 5,297 – cemented his hold as city mayor, allowing him to serve his first term in its entirety.
Cheers and shouts erupted from the canvassing area in the provincial capitol when Gloria Ramos-Petallo, chair of the city board of canvassers, proclaimed Bayron the winner at around 7:15 am.
Yellow-clad supporters shook Bayron's hand and raised his arm in victory.
Bayron was all smiles. He told reporters that he had a good night's sleep, confident about the results turning to his favor.
"Walang kaba. Mayroon kaming quick count, so alam namin more or less ang resulta ng eleksyon na ito....Confident naman ako na mananalo sa laban na ito. Ine-expect ko nga mas malaki pa [ang lamang]," he said.
(We weren't nervous. We had our own quick count, so we knew more or less what the results would be. I was confident I would win. I was even expecting to win by a wider margin.)
With the elections now over, Bayron said it's back to work for him and the other city officials.
Carl, a youth director at a local organization, said he was happy that Bayron won.
"I'm glad the residents of Puerto Princesa didn't give in to fear anymore," he said. "The people here used to be afraid."
With the incumbent's position now reaffirmed, Carl was confident the city would now go back to normal.
But Michael Santos wasn't so sure, adding that the recall polls, contrary to the claims of the Commission on Elections, did not run so smoothly.
Santos recounted how supporters of the two competing candidates swarmed around a vehicle that was supposed to transport the ballot boxes in one barangay.
"Some people tried to get too close to the boxes. Others tried to mount the vehicle," he said. "It was chaotic."
But the 5,000-vote difference – a tight race – drew frustration for supporters of Hagedorn, the former mayor who garnered awards and recognition for his environment advocacies.
Some believed their candidate was cheated of a victory, a scenario city resident Maribel said she saw coming.
"Siyempre gusto kong manalo si Hagedorn. Pero magaling din ang kalaban. Talagang nagkakaroon ng dayaan (Of course, I wanted Hagedorn to win. But the rival is also good. There was really cheating)," she claimed.
During the canvassing Friday night, Hagedorn expressed confidence about his chances of a victory.
"Napaganda ang mga initial na bilang [na] natatanggap namin sa Puerto Princesa City recall elections sa aming mga reports. Salamat po sa pagtitiwala!" a post on his Facebook page read.
(The initial reports we've been receiving on the results of the Puerto Princesa City recall elections are good news for us. Thank you for the trust!)
Hagedorn has not yet issued a statement as of posting, but his campaign manager Nardz Villafranca said the former mayor's camp was taking the news well.
But he also alleged that election violations supposedly committed by their rivals deprived them of a win.
"We've seen the worst. Vote buying was rampant and visible," he said.
Villafranca did not elaborate on what Hagedorn's next course of action would be.
More than 80,000 voters cast their ballots in Friday's recall polls, the second in the history of Puerto Princesa. – Rappler.com