San Juan recall petition: Zamora accuses Mayor Gomez of hiding

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After the Commission on Elections (Comelec) found the recall petition against San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez sufficient, petitioners face a new dilemma: the local chief executive has apparently not received the notice from the poll body.

Without Gomez personally receiving the notice, the Comelec cannot set a deadline for her reply to determine whether a recall election can be held. 

"Wala sa city hall, pinupuntahan siya ng EO, nagrereport ang EO,"  Barangay Addition Hills chairman Sophia Gil said in a press conference on Thursday, December 21. (She's not in the city hall whenever the election officer goes there.)

Gil, a supporter of defeated mayoral candidate Francis Zamora, is among the petitioners. Zamora was present at the press conference at Club Filipino in Greenhills. 

Comelec has supposedly tried serving the the notice to Gomez's office as early as December 15, but to no avail. 

It is a requirement of the Comelec to hear Gomez's side before a recall election is scheduled. The respondent is given 3 days to respond after "personally" receiving notice of the Comelec's decision. (READ: San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez: I am not scared of Francis Zamora)

NOW: San Juan barangay officials and residents hold a press conference on recall petition vs San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez. COMELEC recently found sufficient form and substance in their petition. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/zTKCzYmvvI — Rambo Talabong (@rambotalabong) December 21, 2017

Can't wait for 2019 election?

In a statement, Gomez confirmed she had not received the Comelec notice, but did not address the question of why she was not in her office whenever an election officer tried to serve it. 

Sought by Rappler on Thursday, the Public Information Office of San Juan said Gomez was on leave.

The mayor's statement read: "I will respect the decision of Comelec. Whatever it is, my lawyers are ready. Let this matter take its due course." 

Gomez said she is not afraid to face Zamora in any election, but pointed out that her constituents and the Department of the Interior and Local Government have approved of her performance. 

"It is only them who are not happy with these accomplishments. I cannot really understand why they are so desperate, considering that it is actually one and half years to go before I will finish my third and last term," Gomez said.

Gil dismissed the excuse that the mayor was sick, thus her absence from city hall. She said Gomez had been attending "private events" around the city.

"Nakikita siya sa mga private events. Nagawa niyang sumayaw sa Christmas party with barangay officials," Gil said. (She is seen in private events. She even danced in the Christmas party with barangay officials.)

Zamora called on Gomez to come out to receive the Comelec notice to prove she is confident she can retain her post.

"Ito'y hindi na lang pagtatago sa notice of sufficiency. Sa kanyang pagtatago, hindi niya na rin nagagawa ang kanyang tungkulin bilang mayor ng San Juan," Zamora said. (She is not just hiding to avoid receiving the notice of sufficiency. In hiding, she also neglects her duties as the mayor of San Juan.)

Zamora ran his 2016 campaign on the thrust of evicting the Ejercito-Estrada dynasty from San Juan's top posts. The Zamoras and Estradas used to be allies. 

Francis Zamora predicts the Ejercitos' plan come elections 2019: - Senator JV Ejercito will run as San Juan Mayor - Mayor Guia Gomez will run as congressman - Vice Mayor Janella Ejercito-Estrada to run for reelection — Rambo Talabong (@rambotalabong) December 21, 2017

According to Gil, if this goes on any further, they will ask the Comelec en banc to render a final ruling on their petition.

"Kasi hindi naman puwedeng forever kaming mag-aantay. Sila, nasa kanila kasi ang oras eh, kasi puwede silang magbigay nang magbigay ng kanilang oras for the recall election; kami, walang oras," she said. (We cannot wait forever. They have the time. They have all the time, we don't)

Indeed, they do not have all the time.

Section 74 of the Local Government Code set the rule that recall elections cannot happen a year before a regular election.

With the next one in May 2019, the petitioners need to win their case and get a set election date before May 2018. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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