Poll commissioner withdraws application for SC post

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 13 2021 12:53 PM

Comelec Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr. attends the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JCOC-AES) hearing on the assessment of the 2016 national and local elections and preparations for 2019 elections at the Senate on Sept. 13, 2018. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File
Comelec Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr. attends the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System (JCOC-AES) hearing on the assessment of the 2016 national and local elections and preparations for 2019 elections at the Senate on Sept. 13, 2018. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA— A poll commissioner who is a fraternity brother of President Rodrigo Duterte has withdrawn his application for a vacant associate justice post at the Supreme Court, SC spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka confirmed Friday. 

“I was told that he withdrew his application,” Hosaka told the media when asked about the status of Commission on Elections Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr.’s application for the SC post vacated by retired Associate Justice Edgardo Delos Santos.

Kho is among 11 who applied for the high court post. 

Hosaka said he is not aware of the reason for Kho's withdrawal but confirmed that he was the only one from the list to drop out.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who is a member of the Judicial and Bar Council, confirmed Kho informed the body about his decision first through an e-mail on Aug. 3, then “through a letter, before the date of his public interview,” but “no reason was given” for his withdrawal.

Kho, who like Duterte is a member of the Lex Talionis fraternity, was supposed to be the first SC applicant to be interviewed by the JBC on Wednesday but his interview did not push through. 

Instead, only Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, and CA Associate Justices Apolinario Bruselas and Ramon Cruz were interviewed, based on videos of the interviews uploaded on YouTube by the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Prior to his appointment to the Comelec in July 2018, Kho served as undersecretary of the Department of Justice from 2016. A graduate of San Beda Law, he placed 10th in the 1991 Bar Exams.

Kho currently heads the Comelec’s new normal committee, which aims to come up with guidelines to make the national polls adaptable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kho’s term at the Comelec will end on Feb. 2, 2022. 

Retiring with him on the same day are Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas and Commissioner Rowena Guanzon. 

Both Abas and Guanzon are the only commissioners appointed by the late President Benigno Aquino III, although it was Duterte who installed Abas as Comelec chief.

By the time the May 2022 elections are held, all Comelec commissioners will have been Duterte appointees.

At present, a seventh commissioner has yet to be appointed, which meant Comelec would be missing 2 commissioners had Kho pushed through with his application and be appointed to SC.

This early, the composition of the Comelec has already been questioned. 

Commissioners Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo and Aimee Ferolino-Ampoloquio are from Davao, Duterte's hometown region, while Abas studied in Davao and Kho is from Zamboanga.

The next few months in the lead-up to the May 2022 national polls is crucial for Comelec as it would decide the qualifications and disqualification cases of candidates, the validity of substitutions, and even settle possible cases involving political parties like PDP-Laban, the president's party.

ABS-CBN News reached out to Comelec for Kho’s side but it has yet to respond to our query as of this posting.

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