Local News: ‘Petition vs Special Poll Politically Motivated’
The petition of an election lawyer with the Supreme Court to stop the scheduled June 2 special poll in the 5th District of Negros Occidental is "politically motivated," according to the long-time partner of the late congressman Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo.
Grace Ibuna said she perceived the move "as being dictated by some people who will stand to benefit from a no-election."
Ibuna, however, refused to name names. Romulo Macalintal, through his lawyer Antonio Carlos Bautista, filed last Thursday before the Supreme Court a petition to stop the June 2 special poll in the 5th District saying "it is illegal because it will be held beyond the period as provided for by law."
In a 22-page petition, Macalintal said Section 4 of Republic Act 7166, or the Synchronized National and Local Election Law, provides that special elections to fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives "shall be called and held not earlier than 60 days nor longer than 90 days after the occurrence of the vacancy." "Since Arroyo died on Jan. 26, the earliest date such special election could be held was last March 26 - the 60th day after the occurrence of the vacancy...The latest date it could be held would be on April 25 - the 90th day after the occurrence of such vacancy, pursuant to the provision of RA 7166," his petition read.
But Ibuna said "This is now the administration’s ball. If they push for a special election, we will follow."
"It’s the call of the administration, we should abide by it. Weather-weather lang ang pulitika, sila ngayon ang sikat eh. We should follow the law. There should be law and order," she said.
But when asked if she had already abandoned Iggy’s plans for her to run for congresswoman in the 5th District in 2013, Ibuna said, "Not really."
For his part, Rep. Alfredo "Albee" Benitez (3rd District) said the petition to stop the special poll is too late already. Benitez, who authored the House Resolution mandating a special poll in the 5th District, stressed the holding of the special poll is legal because it is well within the prescribed period.
He said the starting date for the counting of 60-day or 90-day limit should start from March 12, when the House adopted a resolution declaring a vacancy in the 5th District.
Even the Comelec en banc would not have allowed the conduct of the special poll if the commissioners see a violation of the law.
The special poll will seek a replacement of Iggy Arroyo who died on January 26 in London after a long battle with cirrhosis of the liver. Poll Works Ongoing
Meanwhile, the activities of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on the special poll are going on as scheduled, despite the petition filed by Macalintal.
Provincial election supervisor Jesse Suarez said, "There is no order from Manila that we stop our activities pertaining to the special election so we go on with our activities in order to be ready for the June 2 special poll."
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, for his part, said the Comelec does not share Macalintal’s opinion, and it believes that the Supreme Court will not grant his petition.
Pending the resolution of his petition, Macalintal has also asked the High Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent Comelec from disbursing funds for the special poll.
Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said he is hoping that the Supreme Court acts immediately on Macalintal’s petition.
He said the High Court must act swiftly so that government will not spend money if it decides to stop the election.
But Suarez said the Comelec has already spent almost half of the P21.6-million budget allocated for the holding of the special election. The voters’ lists for posting, watchers’ identification cards, Comelec passes and forms for the Board of Election Inspectors in the 5th District have already arrived, he said.
Only the official ballots are lacking as these usually arrive two to three days before the holding of the election, he said, and that he expects the printing of the poll materials to be completed this week. The Comelec has set the election period of the special poll from April 18 to June 17, with the filing of certificates of candidacy on May 14 to 16, and the campaign period from May 17 to 31.
Jimenez said that during this period, a gun ban will be implemented in the 5th District which covers Himamaylan City, La Castellana, Moises Padilla, Isabela, and Hinigaran, with a voting population of more than 200,000.
So far, only Binalbagan Mayor Alejandro Mirasol and his nephew, Board Member Emilio Yulo III, are among the contenders for the post.
Ibuna said she is meeting with Iggy’s political allies to get their support for Mirasol, whom she earlier endorsed.
"I really intend to help Bebot (Mirasol’s nickname), I am fighting this fight with Bebot," she said. The Liberal Party and the United Negros Alliance (UNA) had recently endorsed Mirasol’s candidacy.
"Bebot is a man of honor. He has passion in what he does and he has done a lot for Binalbagan. He is sincere, not the typical politician who makes promises and breaks them. He has what it takes (to lead the 5th District). That’s how I see him," Ibuna said.*