MANILA (3RD UPDATE)-- Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. passed away on Tuesday, the agency said, over 2 weeks since his family announced he was battling COVID-19.
Brillantes, who led the country's shift to automated elections, died "today at a little past 11 a.m.," said Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez.
There were no other immediate details about the 80-year-old Brillantes' passing.
Last July, he tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was intubated at a hospital so he could breathe, his family said.
Malacañang condoled with the family of the former poll body chief.
"We condole with the family of Chair Brillantes and, of course, he served the nation well when he was chairman of the Comelec," Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Brillantes, a prominent election lawyer, served as Comelec chairman from 2011 to 2015 under then President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.
The Comelec hailed the late poll body chief for being a staunch electoral management reform advocate, saying he was instrumental in establishing many of the transparency measures for automated elections.
"He was a dedicated advocate for electoral management reform, strengthening and empowering the Campaign Finance Office which, to this day, vigorously pursues its mandate to hold candidates accountable for their campaign spending," the Comelec said in a statement.
"A staunch defender of the integrity of the COMELEC, Chairman Brillantes zealously went after those who sought to undermine public confidence in the electoral system, sanctioning actions that would bring violators of election laws to justice," it added.
Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, one of Brillante's closest colleagues and friends, said he cannot believe the former COMELEC chief has passed away.
"I cannot imagine that Boy is gone. But I am sure he is now In heaven with our fellow election lawyer, Atty. Pete Quadra, who died in November 2009. Oh, they were also the best of friends," he said in a statement.
Macalintal described Brillantes as "a very caring and loving grandfather."
"I could see how his eyes glowed and smiled everytime we talked about his grandchildren who are all in New York. He would always remember those good times he had with his grandkids and would feel a little bit lonely everytime he was back to the Philippines," said Macalintal.
He said he was right in recommending Brillantes to fill as chairman of COMELEC in 2011 when then President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino was looking for someone to assume the post.
"He was the most knowledgeable and competent Comelec Chairman to ever handle and run the poll body under an automated election system," Macalintal said.
"I cannot imagine that I already lost my close and wonderful friend. But then I pray that he is now rested in the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Brillantes' nephew, Joey, recalled the deceased official as "the kindest, most generous, most loving father, grandfather, husband, uncle, brother, godfather and friend to countless people."
Presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo also mourned the death of Brillantes.
"As the legal profession has lost one of its luminous members today, we pray that the perpetual light will shine upon his soul and that he may rest in eternal peace," he said.
Brillantes oversaw the 2013 national and local elections. Before his Comelec stint, Brillantes lawyered for high-profile clients like deposed President Joseph Estrada, the Ampatuan family, the late tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, and the late actor Fernando Poe Jr.
At the start of his tenure in the poll body, he promised that the country would have fully-automated elections by 2016.
Brillantes in 2013 also sought to lower the airtime limit for election campaign ads, which the Supreme Court barred.