RECALLING THE MECHANISM OF RECALL
(Privilege Speech of Rep. V. Dennis M. Socrates before the House of Representatives in Plenary Session, 28.V.2012)
I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege. This is about COMELEC Resolution No. 9374 promulgated on March 7, 2012, “to discontinue actions”, and, in effect, to deny, wholesale, all petitions for the conduct of recall elections in various local government units all over the country.
The pertinent antecedents of my grievance are as follows:
On or about September 15, 2011, Mr. Caesar R. Ventura, a resident and registered voter of Coron, Palawan, filed a petition for the recall of the incumbent governor of Palawan, invoking the provisions of Sections 69 to 75 of the Local Government Code, as amended. The petition was accompanied with the signatures of 158,889 registered voters of Palawan who were such during the last regular election, which is obviously more than the minimum required by law for such a local government constituency; in this case, 45,000. Mr. Ventura also caused payment to COMELEC of the required filing fee of Fifty Thousand Pesos (Php50,000.00).
COMELEC found the petition for recall sufficient in form and in substantial compliance with the initiatory requirements. All that remained to be done was the “verification” of these signatures which the Provincial Election Supervisor of Palawan together with the Election Officers of the 23 municipalities of the province were poised to conduct when COMELEC issued the subject Resolution No. 9374.
The gist of the subject COMELEC Resolution is found in the last two paragraphs thereof, which read, and I quote:
“Whereas, the Commission sees that it is no longer feasible to conduct recall elections at this point and time, considering the aforesaid budget constraints and the tedious preparatory activities needed for the conduct of recall elections;
“NOW THEREFORE, the Commission on Elections by Virtue of the Powers vested in it by the Constitution, The Omnibus Election Code and other related laws, has RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to discontinue actions on all Petitions for Recall.”
Mr. Speaker, this representation had been the object of a petition for recall in 2002. as mayor of Puerto Princesa City, via a Preparatory Recall Assembly which was possible at that time, although the difference with the present modality is immaterial. I am not bitter about it because it was an exercise of a clear legal right under the Local Government Code. As long as the objective formal, procedural and substantive requirements are complied with, the petitioners have a demandable right to the holding of a recall election. That was in 2002.
Going back to the present context, the petition for recall initiated by Mr. Caesar R. Ventura also complied with all the initiatory requirements. And that is why this representation was disheartened on learning about COMELEC Resolution No. 9374.
Lest I be misunderstood, I would like to state that I am not complaining against anyone. I am not blaming COMELEC, nor the parties for their understandable legal maneuverings in prosecuting or blocking, respectively, the petition for recall. Indeed, we must believe the reasons adduced by COMELEC for Resolution No. 9374—that is, time and budgetary constraints—which should make sense as valid justification even to partisan observers.
But, reflecting on the subject Resolution No. 9374, this representation cannot help but ask whether it is a call to abolish the present mechanism of recall in our Local Government Code. For this purpose, I am filing today a bill for the repeal of Sections 69 to 75 of the Local Government Code, which is the entire chapter on Recall. I hope that our distinguished colleagues would support this move.
The experience brought to us by COMELEC Resolution No. 9374 teaches that the present mechanism of recall is vulnerable to the human or subjective dispositions of the COMELEC Commissioners, as evoked in the very language of Resolution No. 9374 itself. Compliance with the requirements of the law—very onerous already as they are—does not guarantee that a recall election will be conducted. The law is open to “discriminatory enforcement” or does not conform with the idea that “ours is a government of laws, not of men”; nor does it speak well of the stability of our legal system.
This representation is aware, Mr. Speaker, of Section 3, Article X of the Constitution, which requires Congress to enact a local government code “with effective mechanisms of recall”. The present mechanism of recall has proven to be in-effective—and perhaps, even inimical to the common good, considering the trouble everyone has to go through for nothing—and therefore, should be abolished, until such time, we do not know when, as our collective wisdom could conceive of a truly effective mechanism of recall.