MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte defended Saturday his decision to appoint a former Muslim Filipinos commission secretary and a high-profile election lawyer into the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The chief executive earlier this week named Saidem Pangarungan, former secretary of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, as Comelec chairperson. He replaced Sherif Abbas, who retired in February.
"He's a Maranao. He's good. He's a lawye,r saka marami na itong dinaanan sa gobyerno," Duterte said in an interview with his Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
(He's a Maranao. He's good. He's a lawyer and he's been in government for a long time already.)
Duterte also said it is a "neutral choice" to appoint George Garcia into the poll body, noting that the lawyer even represented his former rival Prospero Nograles.
Garcia is a high-profile election lawyer whose clients included now presidential candidates Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso.
"He's a neutral choice para sa akin (for me)... He has always been the lawyer of the late Boy Nograles," Duterte said.
Duterte also appointed former social welfare undersecretary Aimee Neri as a commissioner.
Neri is currently involved in a controversary after lawyer Ferdinand Topacio claimed that his client, convicted drug lord Herbert Colanggo, gave her P10 million to fix a robbery case before the Supreme Court. She has denied the allegation.
The new set of officials were appointed months before the May 9 national and local elections.