Palawan recall elections under way, no major incident so far

interphoto_1429523792PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – The recall elections for mayor of this Palawan’s capital city reeled off without major incident Friday, just a day shy of the one-year restriction for holding any such exercise before the May 9, 2016 presidential polls.

It’s still one year before the 2016 battle, but some political observers here are framing the contest between incumbent Mayor Lucilo Bayron and former mayor Edward Hagedorn as a preview of the showdown between the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and the ruling Liberal Party, with which Hagedorn is allied.

The recall elections began at 7 a.m. Two hours before that, Comelec commissioners Christian Robert Lim and Arthur Lim arrived at the city treasury office to personally witness the preparations and distribution of ballot boxes to electoral precincts.

Plastic seals with signatures of authorized officers were used on the ballot boxes, not the usual padlocks.

These were escorted by the police, military and Comelec personnel.

Some vehicles used to transport them were noticeably wthout license plates, something which the local Comelec personnel could not explain.

But they installed signs on the vehicles saying, “COMELEC: do not delay” with the poll officials signatures, to avoid having any of the vehicles waylaid.

Officials urged people to avoid the text messages being spread by unknown groups telling people of “casualties” from the candidates’ ranks. Comelec said none of this has been confirmed and at press time, no election-related violence has been reported.

Officials noted it is crucial to successfully hold the recall elections Friday; otherwise, it would have to be scuttled altogether. The law prohibits the holding of any recall election within a year of a national election.

There are 29 candidates vying for Puerto Princesa’s mayoral post, but only Bayron and Hagedorn are deemed the frontrunners.

Bayron cast his vote a little past 8 a.m. and strongly denied allegations by Hagedorn camp that his people were involved in irregularities. He stressed he had neither the funds nor the intent to buy votes.

He also dismissed attempts to frame the contest as a prelude to the UNA-LP showdown.

This, he stressed, is purely local politics and said the UNA coalition did not help in his campaign. But, he added, it could be seen as a preview of the possible local contest in 2016.

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