CA confirms Sheriff Abas as Comelec chair

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday, May 23, confirmed Sheriff Abas as chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

This comes after Abas faced a hearing by the CA committee on constitutional commissions and offices at around 10 am on Wednesday.

In his confirmation hearing, Abas asserted the credibility of the 2016 presidential elections, which elected President Rodrigo Duterte. He also explained technicalities in the automated election system.

Abas also said he will try to avoid the fate of Comelec chairpersons before him, such as Alfredo Benipayo, Jose Melo, and Andres Bautista, who failed to finish their terms for various reasons.

Bautista resigned from the Comelec in October 2017 after a public feud with his estranged wife, who accused him of amassing ill-gotten wealth.

"Pagsisikapan ko, your honor, na hindi ako matulad sa kanila, na hindi ko matapos ang termino ko (I will try my best, your honor, that I will not be like them who did not finish their terms)," Abas said. 

Abas is set to break many firsts in the Comelec.

At 39, he will become the youngest Comelec chair. He will also be the first Comelec chair from Mindanao.

A nephew of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, Abas will serve as the Philippines' first Muslim elections chief.

Abas, too, is the first Comelec commissioner to become Comelec chair. (READ: Is it legal to name Sheriff Abas Comelec chair?)

Pushing for improvements

In an interview with reporters after his confirmation, Abas said the Comelec will push for a range of improvements in its services, such as facilities for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and continuing education for election watchers and voters.

"Marami pa tayong i-e-enhance for the 2019 elections (We have a lot to enhance for the 2019 elections)," he said. 

Abas was also asked how he plans to lift the image of the Comelec after the controversies that surrounded Bautista.

Abas answered, "Actually 'yung sinasabi mong mess, more on the personal side ni Chairman Bautista. And with all due respect, ayoko namang pasukin 'yun."

(Actually, the mess you're talking about is more on the personal side of Chairman Bautista. And with all due respect, I do not want to tackle that.)

In a statement, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body "celebrates the confirmation" of Abas.

Jimenez said Abas' assumption "comes at a most opportune time, as the Comelec is preparing for the 2019 national and local elections."

"Chair Abas is eminently suited to take the helm at the Commission considering the depth of his experience in directly managing critical aspects of both the 2016 national and local elections and the recently concluded 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections," Jimenez added. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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