Election watchdog alarmed over Garcia appointment as Comelec chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 02 2022 03:43 PM

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MANILA – An election watchdog on Tuesday said they are alarmed over the appointment of George Garcia, a veteran poll lawyer and former counsel of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., as chairperson of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“Medyo nakakagulat po siya at nakakaalarma kasi alam naman natin merong trust and credibility issues, I’m sorry to say, yung Comelec dahil sa documented cases ng fraud and other irregularities,” said Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao in an interview on TeleRadyo.

(It's a bit surprising and alarming because, I'm sorry to say, the Comelec has trust and credibility issues because of documented cases of fraud and other irregularities.)

“Hindi nakakatulong yung pag-recycle ng appointment para sa pagbibigay ng "chairmanship" sa isang dating abogado ng incumbent president, bukod pa sa iba pang mga pulitiko na naging kliyente niya dati,” he added.

(Recycling appointments doesn't help when you give the chairmanship to a former lawyer of the incumbent president and other politicians.)

Arao lauded Garcia for inhibiting himself from then-candidate Marcos’ disqualification cases, saying this showed prudence on his part.

Garcia was appointed by former President Rodrigo Duterte as Comelec commissioner last February but his confirmation was bypassed by the Commission on Appointments.

On Monday, he sent reporters a message with a photo of his appointment document dated July 22 and signed Aug. 1, as chairman of the Comelec.

Arao stressed that the job of the Comelec chief requires more than just prudence.

“Hindi lang 'yan usapin ng election lawyering. Preferably, expertise in automated elections dapat nandoon din. At kinakailangan na talagang nandoon yung wala masyadong bagahe, lalo na’t merong direktang kaugnayan sa nakaupong pangulo.”

“Hindi lang 'to usapin ng legality eh. It’s also a sign na dapat meron ding prudence, meron ding due diligence in terms of appointments,” he said. 

(This is not just about election lawyering. Preferably, expertise in automated elections should be there, too. And we need someone with no "baggage," especially if that baggage is a direct connection to the sitting president. This is not just a question of legality. It’s also a sign that there must be prudence, and due diligence in terms of appointments.)

Arao also questioned Malacanang’s lack of transparency in the process of appointing a new poll commission chief.

“Siguro yung challenge natin sa puntong ito, sa Malakanyang, bakit hindi ginawang transparent yung proseso? Bakit yung shortlist ay hindi dinisclose? Tapos doon sa sulat na sinabi nila na ina-appoint si Atty. Garcia, ano ba yung batayan nito?”

“Nasaan ba yung sinasabing credentials in terms of appointing this particular person lalo na’t ito ay nanggaling na sa isang proseso na na-deny yung kaniyang dating appointment by the Commission on Appointments?” he added.

(The challenge to Malacanang at this point is, why didn't they make the process transparent? Why was the shortlist not disclosed? And in Garcia's appointment letter, why didn't they specify the reason for his appointment?)

Comelec spokesperson Atty. John Rex Laudiangco said Garcia will be impartial as the poll body’s chair. 

“Pagdating po kasi sa trabaho, talaga pong nag-iinhibit po siya basta po na-connect siya doon sa isang partido sa kaso. Makakaasa po kayo, he will not take any part on that.”

“Ganyan po talaga yung ginawa niya nung una siyang na-appoint na commissioner. Tsaka po, pinakita po niya pagdating po sa reforms, hindi po ito para lang sa isang partido kundi ang tinitingnan niya po dito yung wider view para sa kapakanan po ng ating botante,” added Laudiangco.

(With regard to his job, Garcia inhibits if he is linked to any party in any case. That is what he's been doing. And when it comes to reforms, he doesn't just think of one party, but of the wider view for all voters.)

Laudiangco said Garcia hopes to improve Comelec’s transparency, accountability, and integrity.

“Gusto rin po niyang ma-improve pa yung nai-deliver po namin na successful elections… At higit po sa lahat, talagang gustong gusto na niya po magkaroon ng sariling building at facility ang Comelec. Sa ngayon po kasi, kami’y nangungupahan sa Palacio del Gobernador at iba pang building dito sa Intramuros.”

(He wants to improve on the already successful elections. And most of all, he wants us to have our own building and facility, because right now, we are just renting spaces at Palacio del Gobernador and other buildings in Intramuros.)

--TeleRadyo, 2 August 2022