THERE is a possibility that the petition for recall initiated by the political adversaries of incumbent Cagayan de Oro City mayor Oscar Moreno will be put in the back burner after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) recently declared that it has no funds to conduct any election recall.

Lawyer Aleli Ramirez, city Comelec officer, said the poll body will accommodate all the recall petitions that they receive, as they are mandated to do so, but the financial constraints it is facing now will put those petitions on hold.

“Frankly speaking, there are many cases pending [at the Comelec central office] for lack of budget,” Ramirez told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro in an interview Thursday afternoon.

“It remains to be seen if it (recall petition) prospers or be suspended due to lack of [funds],” she said adding that it might just end up getting shelved at the Comelec.

“It will be put on hold until the issue on budget is resolved,” Ramirez said.

Besides, she said, examining the more than 5,000 pages of documents, including the 71,500 signatures of the city’s voters attached to the petition, would take time and put a burden on her and the city Comelec office staff as they are busy with the registration process.

But Ramirez assured she would go over the recall petition and check if it complies with the Comelec guidelines.

If it passes, she said, the documents would be forwarded to the Comelec main office in Manila for appropriate action.

By law, Ramirez only has five days to review the petition and endorse it to Manila.

As procedure, if the Comelec-Manila will find the documentary requirements of the petition to be essential in form and substance, Ramirez said the poll body can initiate the recall and declare the mayor’s seat as vacant—essentially removing the city’s local chief from office—and to conduct an election to fill the empty position.

But lawyer and city councilor Leon Gan Jr., legal counsel for the petitioners, said that Comelec’s claim of being financially incapable of conducting recall of election has to be checked since “every year there is a budget for it (recall), as required by law.”

“Matingala ta karon nganong walay budget (we are wondering why there is no budget). As far as we know Comelec has savings,” Gan said.

Gan submitted Thursday afternoon 15 boxes (cigarette cartons) of the supporting documents of the recall petition containing 71,500-plus signatures of voters from the city’s 80 barangays contained in 5,200 pages.

After the filing of the petition, Gan said it is up to Ramirez to check the documentary requirements including the P50,000 filing fee, which is mandatory, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) certification of assumption of office of the incumbent mayor.

Comelec also has to ensure the minimum requirements of signatures –15 percent of the total voters – have been reached.

If the Comelc will find all the contents of the documents to be sufficient, verification of the “supporting petitioners” or those who signed the petition, will start, Gan said, who is hoping for the matter to be resolved in 30 days.

Strong chance

He said there is a strong chance the recall petition will prosper due to the sheer number of signatures.

“Dili man siguro pwede hikawan nila ang kagustuhan sa katawhan (I don’t think they (Comelec) will deprive the people of what they want),” Gan said.

Based on the documents submitted, the petitioners are Oscar Moreno Gaabucayan, Sarah Vestal, Julita Cual, Florencio Ceballos, Salahuddin Said, Alex dela Cerna, Macacuna Sumpingon, Janet Floirendo, Cipriano Paasa, Marvin Beja, Hilarion Nagar Jr., and Noel Ilogon.

Composed of barangay officials and sectoral representatives, the petitioners want to remove Moreno from office because of their loss of confidence on him.

“That petitioners from the different sectors have grouped themselves and solidify their strength against the respondent (Moreno) and his style of administration. Their concerted efforts and common voices are indicators of their loss of confidence,” reads a portion of the petition.

The group has also accused Moreno of, among others, failure to submit financial statements, transactions and reports, questionable procurement of handheld radios, implementation of “cosmetic” projects, and refusal to recognize the will of the majority in the barangay health workers election.

For his part, former mayor Vicente Emano said it all depends on the Comelec if they will push through with the recall election.

Emano, founder of the local political party Padayon Pilipino who served as the city mayor for nine years and as vice mayor for one term, lost to Moreno in the May 10, 2013 elections by 17,853 votes.

Emano’s party mate and vice -mayor Caesar Ian Acenas said they are thankful that Moreno has approved the permit needed for them to hold the march rally from the provincial capitol grounds to the city Comelec office, which was aborted due to a heavy downpour Thursday afternoon.

Aside from Acenas, most of Emano’s political allies attended the gathering at the capitol grounds along with their supporters, which numbered to more than 2,000 residents from different barangays, according to the crowd estimate of SPO3 Rolando Ferrolino, chief of operations of the Divisoria police station.

Ferrolino said the gathering was generally peaceful. Other law enforcement units such as the Strategic Weapons and Tactic (SWAT), Explosive and Ordinance Division (EOD), and intelligence operatives were also deployed to the site.

Unfazed by the recall

In a television interview Thursday afternoon, Moreno said he is unmoved by the recall petition.

“I have no problem with it (recall petition),” Moreno said, as he accused Emano of employing various maneuvers just to gain back the political power the latter once had.

“Si Dongkoy (Emano) wala nakasabot unsa iyang buhaton (He no longer knows what to do). He has many setbacks and he is not [happy],” the mayor said, referring to the protest Emano filed to assert that he did not lose in the May 10, 2013 elections.

In an interview Thursday, Emano said he was cheated during the previous election.

When it did not pan out, Emano then filed a motion before the Comelec to claim the ballots with no votes and called it untenable.

According to reports, Emano claimed in his electoral protest that those ballots containing votes of all Padayon Pilipino line-up but with blank vote for Mayor should be counted in his (Emano) favor.

To put the whole matter to rest, Moreno said he is amenable to an election—on one condition.

He said that if loses, he will gladly step down from his office.

But, on the other hand, if he wins, Moreno said Acenas and all of Emano’s allies at the city council should resign.

“It should be a winner-take-all,” Moreno added.