MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Commission on Elections Chairman Jose Melo stepped down on Saturday.
In a statement, Melo said he advanced his date of resignation 2 weeks earlier than January 31, the date he indicated in his resignation letter he submitted to the poll body.
He said it was President Benigno Aquino III’s desire to name his successor, who would immediately assume office in an ad interim capacity.
"I understand that it is the President's desire to name my successor to immediately assume office in an ad interim capacity. And consistent with my standing offer to step down, I am advancing the date of my resignation as chairman," he said.
Brillantes takes over
Meanwhile, veteran election lawyer Sixto Brillantes told dzMM in an interview on Sunday that he has accepted his appointment as the new chairman of the Comelec.
Brillantes, who served as opposition lawyer during the May 2010 elections, said President Aquino signed his appointment on Saturday, and that it would be officially announced on Sunday.
"I will be as neutral and impartial as possible," Brillantes told Julius Babao in the interview.
He said he had advised his clients to look for other lawyers, and that he would not be favoring them in the Comelec.
"Sabi ko sa kanila, humanap na kayo ng ibang abogado, huwag niyo na akong asahan, huwag niyo naman gamitin yung pagkakaibigan natin. Yun na lang ang hinihingi kong tulong sa kanila," he said.
Brillantes said he would inhibit himself from cases involving his former clients.
However, he said many cases are decided at the division level of the Comelec, where the chairman does not participate.
It is only when the case reaches the Comelec en banc is the chairman required to vote. Even if he inhibits himself, there are 6 other commissioners who will decide.
"So, hindi naman masyadong apektado. Hindi naman ako boboto sa division level e, which is the level where many cases are," he said.
Vows to pursue reforms
Brillantes said he accepted it after having been in the private sector all his life.
"Sabi ko, puwede ko na sigurong tanggapin. Eto na ang magiging...wil cap my career. Never in government ako Julius e, ngayon lang," he said. "So siguro, sabi ko, magandang katapusan 'to."
He also vowed to pursue electoral reforms.
"Kung tatapusin ko naman ang career ko sa mundong ito e, sana naman mapaganda ko, maski na eto lang election reforms. Matagal ko nang adhikain ito," he said.
Brillantes also asked the citizenry to support him.
"Tulungan lang nila ako, konting dasal lang at maaasahan nila na gagawin ko na ang lahat. Eto naman ang end part na ng buhay ko. Hindi ko na itataya ang reputasyon ko dito."
Melo lauded for successful 2010 polls
Malacañang confirmed Melo’s resignation, and lauded him for his close to 3 years of service as chairman of the Comelec.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said Melo leaves behind a distinguished record of public service highlighted by the successful holding of the country's first nationwide automated elections last May.
Election lawyers Romulo Macalintal and Brillantes are were part of Malacañang's short-list for Comelec chief.
Brillantes said he was told that Macalintal had asked that he be taken out of the list after consulting his family.
Conflict of interest
Former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod earlier told ABS-CBN it would not be good to appoint election lawyers to the top Comelec post since they would be affected by conflicts of interest given their past dealings with clients.
Outgoing Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal on Friday said he sees nothing wrong with appointing election lawyers as chief of the poll body, saying it can benefit from their knowledge.
Larrazabal defended Macalintal and Brillantes amid criticisms that they should not be appointed because of their ties with politicians.
"People forget that the main job of the chairman is to manage the Comelec," Larrazabal said.
The commissioner believes any of the two can forget their connections with politicians to meet the requirements of the job.