MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila De Lima wishes the best of luck for her former client, Grace Padaca, who now embarks on a new challenge as Commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
De Lima, who served as Padaca's election lawyer in 2001 and 2004, said the former Isabela governor will play an important role in the poll body as it continues to institute electoral reforms.
Padaca took her oath before De Lima on Monday morning before proceeding to the Comelec to buckle down to work.
"I'm so honored na dito sya nag-oath sa akin. I can only wish her the best of luck. Malaki ang misyon niya sa Comelec. Kailangan talaga malinis nang husto ang Comelec dahil yan ang institusyon na kailangan sigurado tayo na pinapangalagaan the will of the electorate... so it has to be an institution of integrity...free of mga irregularities, anomalies," De Lima said.
The justice chief said Padaca should look into so-called syndicates operating within the Comelec during election period.
De Lima also defended President Aquino's move to shoulder Padaca's bail with the Sandiganbayan on graft charges. The P70,000 bail posted by Padaca came from the President's personal fund.
"Wala naman akong nakikitang masama doon. First of all, that's the personal fund of the President and the President, naniniwala na walang basehan yung kaso kay [ex-Isabela] Gov. Grace Padaca. So hindi dapat pinapalaki Yun... the President is very supportive and trusts Commissioner Grace Padaca very much," De Lima said.
Asked to comment on President Aquino message that Padaca should "take care" amid her new role, De Lima said Mr. Aquino was simply concerned about Padaca's welfare.
"Alam mo na, kapag you have a sensitive position such as a Comelec Commissioner, hindi maiiwasan ang pangamba na you would be stepping on the shoes of certain people... sa mga gagaawin mong reporma. Concerned lang si Presidente," De Lima said.