New poll official and the ties that bind

The new Comelec commissioner has ties to the Liberal Party and was unseated as a congressman due to alleged poll fraud

NEW COMMISSIONER. Newly-appointed Comelec commissioner Macabangkit Lanto with chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. Photo tweeted by Brillantes

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) defended newly-appointed commissioner Macabangkit Lanto from criticism arising from his previous electoral case.

Lanto, former Lanao del Norte congressman and ambassador to Egypt, was one of two new Comelec commissioners appointed by President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday, March 7. The other new poll commissioner is Maria Bernadette Sardillom. 

His appointment though was met with criticism due to his previous poll case. He was unseated from his congressional seat in 1994 due to alleged election fraud.

Lanto visited on Friday the Comelec office in Intramuros, Manila, to clear his name to the poll body and the public. “Apparently, there’s an orchestrated move to discredit me. Maybe by some people who would not want me to sit,” he said.

Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr himself defended his new colleague. He said he reviewed the decision of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), and saw that Lanto was never proven guilty of the case filed.

Beneficiary, yes, but…

“While there may have been irregularities, there was no evidence linking the Commissioner to the irregularities. No evidence of fraud on his part. He may have benefitted from the fraud. But there is no evidence linking him to it,” he said.

Lanto said he’s not guilty, and that he was only framed up by powerful politicians.

The Team PNoy senatorial coalition also came to the defense of Lanto.

“Unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the effect that his innocence is tainted, let’s not put politics into Lanto’s appointment. Let’s evaluate on how he is and how is able to deliver his functions,” Team Pnoy spokesperson Miro Quimbo said.

Lanto used to work for Team PNoy campaign manager Sen Franklin Drilon, who endorsed him as officer-in-charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 2011.

Lanto admitted that it was also Drilon who recommended him for the Comelec post. But he clarified that he will remain impartial despite his strong ties to the Liberal Party.

In Malacañang, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that “any concerns about Comelec appointments will be resolved in a timely manner.”

The appointment of Lanto and Sardillom will have to be confirmed by the bicameral Commission on Appointments. –