Tagle, Yusoph bid Comelec goodbye
MANILA, Philippines – "It hurts to say goodbye, but that is life. Everything has an end."
These were the words of Commissioner Elias Yusoph, who along with Commissioner Lucenito Tagle and Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr retire from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday, February 2.
But in the office he occupied for 6 years, there was little to no room for melancholy.
"I am happy that I have lived up to the expectations of the public. I'll be leaving the commission to receive the fruits of my labor," which for Yusoph was "the best income" any person could get.
"During my term of office, I see to it that I have never abused my position as a commissioner," he noted in an interview last week. Hailing from Lanao del Sur, Yusoph will turn 64 years old on February 20.
"My only great achievement is that I've performed my function well," he said, noting for instance the cleansing of the voter's list in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), an area previously known for tumultuous polls but have since made great strides to shed that reputation.
Yusoph was also proud of the camaraderie among all the commissioners. "Although we differ in opinions, the en banc is still intact. We have the respect of each other," he said.
After 32 years as prosecutor – including for Comelec – Yusoph was appointed to the commission in 2009.
"As a matter of fact, the Comelec has been a part of my family. Even before joining the Comelec as a prosecutor, I am the vice chairman of the board of canvassers during elections. So from the time I joined the prosecution, I have been with the Comelec every election," he said.
As the presiding commissioner of the poll body's Second Division, he has experienced a lot during hearings.
"You will be meeting lawyers who presume to know everything. You will be meeting lawyers who are not prepared during the hearings," he recounted. There were even lawyers who "assume that the commissioners hearing the cases are not prepared."
"There are also lawyers who are so arrogant in their manifestations." He then mentioned lawyer Ely Pamatong, whom he once cited for contempt for making inappropriate remarks during a hearing.
Yusoph acknowledged that his position is a very delicate one. "We want people who can occupy a certain position to be qualified and God-fearing. This is a trust from God," he said, adding that self-contentment would be achieved that way.
"If you decide cases based on its merits, regardless of the parties involved, you are at peace with your mind."
He also pushed for a representative from the Muslim community like himself to be appointed as commissioner. He floated the names of Dr. Saga Mabaning, head of the Comelec judicial records division; commissioner Abdullah Mangotara of the Bureau of Immigration; and Assistant Secretary Zabedin Azis of the Department of Justice.
"After this, I'll be resting. I'll come back to my private life, I may either return to the practice of law and handle select cases." He might also agree to become a consultant to the Comelec even without compensation.
However, he would not hesitate if God has a plan for him to occupy another position in government. "It's up to God, but as of now, I have no intention to run for any elective position," Yusoph noted.
Ultimately, Yusoph would like to have more time with his family. "Some of my family members are in the province, some are here. It's good to see the family united once again."
As for Tagle, the only one among the 3 retiring officials to complete a full 7-year term, he feels both happy and sad about his departure from the Comelec.
The 76-year-old commissioner from Lucena City said he would miss the flag ceremony every Monday, which he always attends, as well as the weekly en banc meetings. "We had arguments at times, but all were friendly discussions."
"Although we faced many challenges during that 7-year period, it's all OK because my colleagues are very supportive. We have decided on many controversial cases, but on the whole, I'm satisfied," he said.
Among the notable decisions Tagle penned was Aratea vs Comelec, where the poll body ruled that the second placer in the elections would succeed a candidate whose certificate of candidacy is void from the start. Their ruling was sustained by the Supreme Court.
Tagle arrived in the poll body in 2008, after 14 years as a trial court judge and executive judge in Cavite, and 4 years as an associate justice of the Court of Appeals.
If he were to choose his successor, Tagle said he would pick someone who has an experience in the judiciary, or at least an extensive law practice. "Here in the Comelec, there are many [election] cases. If you will appoint somebody who did not practice law, who was not active in law practice, he or she would have a hard time deciding on these cases."
He also adviced his replacement to expedite the adjudication of cases. "Elections are approaching, but cases remain undecided, becoming moot and academic. We have 3 years to decide between elections, so the Comelec has to act fast."
One thing that could help him or her (as well as election practitioners), suggested Tagle, is the recently-launched Comelec Reports book, a digest of election rules and the poll body's significant decisions.
Asked about his plans after leaving the poll body, Tagle said he might return to law practice after the one-year ban. He might also rest for a while.
He then sings a few lines from Doris Day's "Que Sera Sera."
"Whatever will be, will be. The future's not ours to see. What will be, will be." – Rappler.com