MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Supreme Court has ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct recall elections against Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron.
Voting 12-0 on Tuesday, November 25, the Supreme Court en banc ruled in favor of petitioner Alroben Goh and set aside two Comelec resolutions that suspended all proceedings on pending recall petitions, including that in Puerto Princesa, due to lack of funds.
"We hold that the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing Resolution Nos. 9864 and 9882," the SC decision said.
The Court cited the Comelec's fiscal autonomy, and the Comelec chairman's power to augment items in its budget from its savings. There is no need, therefore, to secure a supplemental budget from Congress to conduct recall elections in 2014, it said.
It also pointed to an existing line item appropriation in the 2014 national budget – in the "Programs" category of the poll body's budget – for the conduct of recall polls, which is among Comelec's constitutional mandates.
"Should the funds in the 2014 budget be deemed insufficient, the Comelec chairman "may exercise his authority to augment such line item appropriation from the Comelec's existing savings, as this augmentation is expressly authorized in the 2014 [General Appropriations Act]," the SC ruling said.
The Comelec has yet to receive a copy of the Court's decision as of posting time.
Goh, former Puerto Princesa City administrator, filed the recall petition against Bayron before the Comelec early this year, citing the "loss of trust and confidence" in him as city mayor. (Fast Facts: The recall process)
In April, through Comelec Resolution No. 9864, the Comelec certified the sufficiency of the petition, but suspended any proceeding in furtherance thereof – including the verification of signatures on the petition and the conduct of the recall election itself – due to lack of funds.
The following month, the Comelec issued Resolution No. 9882, suspending all proceedings on recall petitions until the funding issue is resolved.
On November 21, the poll body resumed taking up recall petitions by partially lifting its suspension order. In the case of the Puerto Princesa petition, the Comelec allowed Goh's request to publish the petition for 3 weeks. – Rappler.com