'Very unusual': 45 bets run for Puerto Princesa mayor

MANILA, Philippines – From two politicians in the 2013 elections, now 45 people want to become mayor of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, in the recall elections on May 8. 

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez told Rappler on Friday, April 24, that having 45 candidates for mayor is "very unusual."

The 45 candidates include incumbent Puerto Princesa Mayor Lucilo Bayron and former Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn, who filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) on April 21.

The COCs for Puerto Princesa mayor "are being elevated to the law department of the Comelec now," Jimenez said Wednesday, April 23.

He said this after Rappler news editor Miriam Grace Go asked him on Twitter if the Comelec will remove the "nuisance candidates," as in regular elections. 

"But as the campaign period has already started, all 45 will be treated as candidates, and all corresponding burdens…will be imposed on them," Jimenez said.

These burdens include the filing of statements of contributions and expenditures, which the Comelec uses to check if a candidate overspent during the campaign.

'Loss of trust' in Bayron

The number of candidates this year is a far cry from the number of aspirants in the 2013 elections.

Back then, only Bayron and Ellen Hagedorn, the wife of Edward, competed for the post of mayor. 

The Comelec scheduled the recall elections after 22,326 voters signed a recall petition initiated by Al Roben Goh, a former city information officer, in March 2014. 

Goh wanted to recall Bayron because of the city residents' supposed "loss of trust and confidence" in him.

Bayron's main opponent in the 2015 recall elections, Hagedorn was his former political ally and was Puerto Princesa mayor from 1992 to 2001 and from 2002 to 2013. 

Hagedorn said he wants to be mayor again to arrest the "drastic drop in tourist arrivals, rise in criminality, proliferation of illegal drugs, and corruption in Puerto Princesa," which allegedly happened in the past two years, when Bayron was chief executive.

Days before the recall elections, however, Hagedorn began to face a plunder complaint filed before the Ombudsman by 3 known supporters of Bayron. He dismissed the case as a "cacophony of lies." – with reports from Michael Bueza/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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