Ex-poll chief: New Comelec officials should get chance to prove integrity, capability

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 09 2022 12:30 PM | Updated as of Mar 09 2022 01:16 PM

Comelec chairman Saidamen Pangarungan and Comelec Commissioners George Garcia and Aimee Neri. National Commission on Muslim Filipinos website/Department of Justice video screengrab/Supreme Court's Public Information Office
Comelec chairman Saidamen Pangarungan and Comelec Commissioners George Garcia and Aimee Neri. National Commission on Muslim Filipinos website/Department of Justice video screengrab/Supreme Court's Public Information Office


MANILA—Three new Commission on Elections officials should be given a chance to prove their integrity and capability, a former poll chief said on Wednesday, despite concerns on possible conflict of interest. 

Former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod said elections happen on the ground and not in Comelec's central office.

"I think we should give them a chance to show, to demonstrate that they have the integrity and capability to do the job and it’s too early to judge them," he told ANC's "Rundown".

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed 3 new Comelec officials 2 months before the Philippine electorate cast their ballots. Over 18,000 positions are to be contested, including a race to succeed him.

National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan, a former governor of Lanao del Sur, was appointed new Comelec chairman. 

Duterte also tapped as Comelec commissioners Aimee Neri, a former social welfare undersecretary; and George Garcia, a veteran election lawyer who represented former Sen. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. in his poll protest against 2016 rival Vice President Leni Robredo.

Marcos and Robredo are seeking the top post in the 2022 polls.

Monsod said he trusts the career officers of Comelec "will deliver a fair and credible elections in 2022, given the history."

"Even when our democracy was not in its best behavior, somehow it works and the results are credible and accepted by the people," he said.

Watch more News on iWantTFC

But election watchdog Kontra Daya voiced reservations about the new Comelec officials.

For one, the poll body needs IT experts and those who have a track record in clean and honest elections, said Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao. 

The new appointments were also not good for optics given Comelec's recent controversies, he told "Rundown".

Arao cited Comelec's contract with a logistics firm linked to President Rodrigo Duterte's major campaign donor.

He also noted that the poll body's First Division in February junked 3 consolidated disqualification cases against Marcos, which stemmed from a 1995 tax case conviction of the presidential aspirant.

Petitioners last week asked the Comelec to resolve the remaining disqualification case against Marcos. 

 While Garcia said he would inhibit from cases involving his former clients, Arao said the newly appointed Comelec commissioner carries "too much baggage".

"Definitely he has track record of election lawyering. But if you have a lawyer there with too much baggage, baggage in the sense that you had too many clients, how many times will you inhibit yourself?" he said.

Garcia disclosed he also represented presidential contenders Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, and Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

"Pinakaimportante lang is to implement election law as honestly as possible and at the same time doon lang ako kung ano ang tama, doon lang ako lagi pupuwesto," Garcia said on Tuesday. 

(What is most important is to implement election law as honestly as possible and at the same time, I will side with what is right, that is where I will always stand.)