MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Less than a month before elections, the head of a poll watchdog and an information technology (IT) expert will start helping steer the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Palace confirmed on Thursday, April 18.
President Benigno Aquino III has appointed Luie Guia, executive director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente), and Al Parreño, a board member of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), as new Comelec commissioners.
The two new commissioners have one thing in common: both practiced law in the private sector. Guia has a good grasp of citizen involvement in elections, having been part of Lente and other watchdogs. Parreño, on the other hand, specializes in litigation involving IT – something the Comelec needs for the second and succeeding automated elections.
In an interview with reporters, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino chose Guia due to “his experience as an election lawyer, as an election consultant in several countries, and as director of Lente, a civil society group dedicated to honest elections.”
Lacierda said Parreño “has proven his competence” as LTFRB board member.
Parreño also served as private prosecutor in the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona, but Lacierda said he was appointed for factors beyond this. “His previous work experience as a project manager of several IT projects was a factor in his selection as a Comelec commissioner. His contribution to Comelec will primarily be in IT,” he said.
‘We can move faster’
Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr, for his part, said the appointment of Guia and Parreño will expedite Comelec processes.
Brillantes told reporters the Comelec can now divide cases among 7 commissioners, as opposed to 5 in the past two months. He noted the Comelec has to process pending party-list re-hearings, barangay cases, and disqualification cases.
“Now we can move faster,” Brillantes said.
Brillantes described Guia as “practically” an insider, having been a member of the Comelec’s advisory council. He said as for Parreño, his main contribution is in the field of IT, “which is what we really need.”
Guia and Parreño enter the Comelec amid obstacles from the Supreme Court, which, in fact, have prompted Brillantes to say he wants to quit. The Comelec has lacked two commissioners since February, when former commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco ended their terms.
In March, Aquino appointed Comelec commissioners who both backed out – one due to personal reasons, the other due to controversy.
In a phone interview with Rappler, Guia said he aims to modernize the Comelec and strengthen its bureaucracy. He also said he wants to make the Comelec more engaging and more transparent, and to more closely involve civil society and watchdogs in elections.
This will strengthen the credibility of the election process, Guia said.
“’Yung mga eleksyon natin, hindi lang eleksyon ng Comelec ‘yan. Eleksyon ‘yan ng taumbayan,” Guia said. (Our elections are not only elections of the Comelec but elections of the people.)
Speaking to Rappler, Parreño said he will bring a rare mix to the Comelec – a person with experience in both technology and law. (Read: Parreño: ‘Curious’ outsider in Comelec.)
A political science and law graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP), Guia began his career at the Comelec. He served as executive assistant under former Comelec chair Christian Monsod from 1992 to 1995. He also became a consultant to former commissioner Regalado Maambong from 1996 to 1998.
Parreño finished business and law also at UP. He specializes in litigation involving IT, intellectual property, and cyberlaw, among others.
With the two new commissioners, 5 Aquino appointees now dominate the 7-member Comelec. Aquino also appointed Brillantes, and Comelec commissioners Christian Lim and Grace Padaca. – Rappler.com
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