Search for the next Comelec chair underway

With the retirement of Commissioner Sixto S. Brilliantes Jr., chair of the Philippines seven-man Commissions on Elections (Comelec), talks about the next possible Comelec Chair have been circulating lately.

It is imperative to fill up the shoes of Brillantes as the national and the local elections in 2016 near. However, there is always this presumption that the members, especially the Comelec Chair are lackeys of the administration.

While it is true that the Comelec is a constitutional body, the perception of its independence becomes obscure since it is the Executive Department that appoints its members, particularly the Comelec Chairman. Thus, how could the Comelec be a constitutional and independent body when it is the President who appoint the members of the Comelec?

In fairness to Brillantes, even his appointment as the Comelec Chair has been an object of dismay – right from the start. How could Brillantes, an acclaimed lawyer of most of the candidates of the Liberal Party, be engrossed as Comelec Chair? Of course, for those who did not know that Brillantes was a Liberal Party lawyer of some of the LP candidates. For President Benigno S. Aquino, III, the appointment of Birllantes to the Comelec was a good choice.

There was this widespread gossip within the circle of election lawyers that Brillantes and Romulo Makalintal are the two opposing election lawyers. When one of them would side the other, the other lawyer would have no option but to be the counsel on the other side. In other words, if Brillantes is the lawyer of the Aquino-led LP, Makalintal was the lawyer of the NP or Arroyo-led Lakas political party. This was the case during the 2010 elections when Brillantes was with the LP and Makalintal with the Arroyos.

Unfortunately, it was LP who won the 2010 Presidential elections. Perhaps, Makalintal, as an election lawyer, was greatly affected when Brillantes accepted the Comelec Chair position. Certainly, with Brillantes at the top of the electoral body, it would be very hard for Makalintal to win cases involving election protest. In fact, since Brillantes becomes the Comelec Chair, the name of Makalintal could hardly be heard anymore.

While Makalintal was disappointed by Brillantes appointment as head of the electoral body, some were also happy. For instance, many suspected that the incumbent Mayor Oscar Moreno of Cagayan De Oro City has benefited with Brillantes appointment. One, the election recall filed by the opposition against Moreno which the Comelec did not grant under pretext of “lack of funds.” Two, Moreno is with the Liberal Party for which the Comelec Chair is indebted to. However, apart from all the speculations, one important thing is not known to most of the Cagayanons – that Moreno and Brillantes are both Alumni of San Beda College of Law. Brillantes graduated Law in 1965 while Moreno in 1975.

To make it appear ‘though that nothing personal in the denial of the recall election petition filed by the more than 75,000 voters against Moreno, the Comelec, in a Nov. 18, 2014 Resolution No. 9912 partially lifted the suspension of the recall proceedings in Cagayan De Oro City. Well, some said that Resolution 9912 is Brillantes’s graceful exit to make it appear that he was impartial to the Cagayan De Oro City Mayor – a fellow alumnus at San Beda College of Law. That is only a suspicion ‘though.– 0 –

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