Comelec chair Melo to retire early: source

By Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 26 2010 07:24 PM | Updated as of Oct 27 2010 03:24 AM

MANILA, Philippines - He is only in his second year as chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), but Jose Melo is reportedly planning to retire early from the poll body.

An ABS-CBN source said a close relative of President Benigno Aquino III has convinced Melo to retire early and accept a new post in the Aquino administration.

Melo left for Hawaii on Tuesday for a week-long vacation. The ABS-CBN source said the respite is preparation for Melo's eventual exit from Comelec in December, more than 2 years after his appointment.

The Comelec chairman was appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2008. His term lapses in 2015.

Several commissioners said Melo has made known his desire to leave the Comelec at least 10 times in previous en banc meetings.

"Sinasabi lang niya na gusto na niyang mag-rest. Mas gusto niya siguro yung work na di ganun ang pressure just like in the Comelec," said Comelec commissioner Armando Velasco.

Melo supervised the conduct of the 2008 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the first nationwide automated election in May 2010, and Monday's barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the 78-year-old Melo has already accomplished his mission in the Comelec.

"Dahil nga gusto niyang magtagumpay ang halalan sa automation. Generally OK naman yung halalan, so para sa kaniya yung kaniyang misyon ay natapos na," he said.

The source said Melo's decision to take early retirement became much easier after a conversation with a friend and close relative of the President.

Sarmiento said holding a different post in the Aquino administration would be a good move.

"Kahit 78, siya po'y malakas pa. Puwede siyang maging ambassador. Puwede ring gawing presidential adviser on electoral and judicial reforms," he said.

ABS-CBN tried to confirm the news with Melo but the chairman declined an interview because he was busy with the election.

If he does decide to retire, Melo will be the third official to leave Comelec in the next few months. Comelec commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer and Gregorio Larrazabal are set to retire on February 2011.