Pangarungan says to only use gun ban authority during 'extreme' need
MANILA (UPDATE) - The Commission on Elections en banc has deferred action on the irrevocable resignation of Commissioner Socorro Inting as gun ban committee chairperson, a fellow commissioner said Wednesday.
Inting resigned as a "protest" to the amendment that gives power to Comelec chairman Saidamen Pangarungan to unilaterally declare an area under Comelec control.
“Wala pa rin munang pagbabago sapagkat dinefer ng en banc yung pag-consider sa irrevocable resignation ni Comm. Inting," Comm. George Erwin Garcia told reporters.
Garcia denied there is infighting in the Commission after Inting's resignation.
“Ay, hindi po totoo yun. Kami po kanina, medyo madami-dami yung agenda na na-dispose," he said.
(It's not true. We disposed of quite a lot of agenda earlier.)
“Wala naman pong mga opposition. Walang mga objection. Lahat po, natapos namin hanggang tanghali yung lahat ng nakalagay sa agenda namin. Walang mga kuro-kuro na infighting, na divided na ang Commission. 'Di po totoo yun.”
(There were no oppositions. There were no objections. We finished everything on the agenda until noon. There's no truth to the alleged infighting, that the commission is divided.)
In her resignation letter obtained by ABS-CBN News, Inting said the Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security Concerns (CBFSC) has been rendered "pointless" and "inutile" following the amendments finalized in last week's en banc meeting.
"The bestowal on the Chairman of the Commission of the power to grant gun ban exemptions and place Election Areas of Concern under Comelec Control based on the vague and arbitrary phrase of "meritorious and urgent cases" essentially rendered futile or pointless the existence and functions of the CBFSC," Inting said in her letter.
The Comelec Chairman said the power to bypass the CBFSC and put an area under Comelec control would allow him to respond faster once election-related violence erupts in an area.
"Kailangan merong authority ang Chairman to declare an area under Comelec control kasi, halimbawa, nagbabarilan sila doon sa Lanao del Sur, does it mean that I need wait for another one week to convene the CBFSC para ma-declare ito under Comelec control?" Pangarungan said.
Pangarungan, Garcia and Aimee Neri were all appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to the Comelec last month.
In a statement, acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar said they respect the Comelec's independence and hope that the reported dispute would not affect the May 9 elections.
"We further believe that any internal disagreement among its commissioners will be resolved amicably and professionally," noted Andanar.
Commissioners Marlon Casquejo and Aimee Ferolino wore black to the hybrid en banc session Wednesday.
Ferolino, vice chair and acting chair of the poll body committee on gun ban, did it to support Inting, according to lawyer Eme Ferolino who is from her office.
“COMELEC commissioner Ferolino is wearing black in today’s enbanc session. This is in support of commissioner Inting. CONTEXT: Commissioner Ferolino is the Vice Chair and currently acting Chair of the CBFSC. UPDATE: Commissioner Casquejo is also wearing black” Eme Ferolino said.
It was not immediately clear if Casquejo wore black for the same reason.
Garcia sidestepped the reasons for Inting’s resignation and declined to comment on the black outfits of his colleagues.
Garcia voted with Pangarungan and Commissioners Rey Bulay and Neri to approve Comelec Resolution 10777 promulgated last April 6, to grant the poll body's chair powers to issue exemptions to the ban on firearms and security detail and to place areas under Comelec control.
Inting, Ferolino and Casquejo cast dissenting votes to the resolution which has not been released to the public.
Inting, a former Appellate Court justice, has so far declined to talk to the media about her decision to resign.
“I am a Justice by heart than a Comelec Commissioner. I will maintain a dignified silence. My resignation is a passive protest,” Inting said in a text message that was released by her office to media on Monday night.
Pangarungan vowed that his gun ban authority would only be used during "extreme" circumstances as recommended by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the national police.
At present, no area in the country is under Comelec control, he said.
"It is my fervent hope that there will be no need for the exercise of such authority," Pangarungan said in a statement.
He said he welcomes any dissent put forward by any of the commissioners, and that his respect to Inting remains.
"Dissent is an integral element of democracy. As a member of a Commission that enables our democratic exercise, I welcome the differing opinions and stances of my colleagues," the Comelec chief said.
"This is part and parcel of our sacred duty to the nation as a collegial body... We are professionals and we will continue to work towards a common goal."
-- Reports from RG Cruz and Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News