US basketball

Even Aquino’s critic wants Guia in Comelec

Paterno Esmaquel II
Luie Guia, a watchdog head, has been known to 'practice elections with honesty and integrity'

POLL WATCHDOG. The President has appointed lawyer Luie Guia as Comelec commissioner. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II

MANILA, Philippines – When the Palace named Luie Guia a poll commissioner, a most unlikely person praised the President for this new appointment.

Arroyo lawyer Ferdinand Topacio – one of the Aquino administration’s harshest critics – called Guia a “good choice.”

And why not?

Guia, a lawyer for over two decades, has advocated electoral reform as acting executive director of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente), and as participant in groups like Libertas, the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections, and the Consortium for Electoral Reforms.

In the first place, he began his career in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) itself, as executive assistant under then Comelec chair Christian Monsod from 1992 to 1995. Later, he involved himself as member of the Comelec advisory council, prompting poll chief Sixto Brillantes Jr to describe him as “practically” an insider.

The Palace 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.” Aquino appointed Guia as Comelec commissioner alongside Al Parreño, a lawyer and information technology expert. (Read: Parreño: ‘Curious’ outsider in Comelec.)

‘Very ethical lawyer’

Topacio, who has known Guia since 2009, said the new Comelec commissioner “really knows his stuff.”

The Arroyo lawyer, who worked with him on some election cases, praised Guia not only for his familiarity with election laws. “He knows how people can cheat so he can create measures to prevent cheating,” Topacio told Rappler.

Topacio also described Guia as “very ethical.”

He recalled a time when Guia declined to serve as his consultant due to conflict of interest. Topacio was then handling a case under a Comelec division that had Guia’s uncle as a commissioner. Topacio said Guia could have worked behind the scenes, but still, he chose to avoid the case out of “delicadeza” (propriety).

“He practices election law with honesty and integrity,” Topacio said.

Link to NGOs

Former Comelec commissioner Rene Sarmiento, who ended his term last February, also commended Guia’s appointment.

NEW COMMISSIONER. Luie Guia (center) meets poll chief Sixto Brillantes Jr (left) and commissioner Elias Yusoph (right) after his appointment. Photo from Brillantes' Twitter account

He said Guia worked closely with the Comelec in empowering the marginalized to vote. Sarmiento was at the forefront of the Comelec’s efforts to help the marginalized participate in elections.

Sarmiento cited the time when Guia joined the Comelec “in our effort to empower Mangyans” in Mindoro. Guia taught indigenous people about the importance of elections, Sarmiento recalled.

The former commissioner said Guia could continue his pro-poor reforms.

He said Guia could also use his network, as former head of Lente, to improve relationships with election stakeholders – which was also Sarmiento’s job at the Comelec.

“He is the right person to right person to deal with the interagency and NGO network dealing with the marginalized and vulnerable,” Sarmiento said.

‘People’s elections’

The new commissioner’s blog – titled “My Extra Rice” – provides clues on the types of reforms he would embark on. Some of his most interesting thoughts include the following: 

  • On ‘epals’ and laws on premature campaigning: “As sovereigns we can express our frustration and irritation by calling public attention (to) and raising awareness (on) the erring politicians’ palusots… Politicians can also be asked about where they got the money, or why they are spending so much of their own money, to pay for those expensive ads… Next, is to campaign for the amendment of these useless laws”

  • On transparency among candidates: “It may then be wise to require or mandate the submission of a sworn statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) as part of the certificates of candidacy for all those seeking public elective office. The SALNs together with the certificates of candidacy are to be considered public records, open to public scrutiny”

  • On updating the Omnibus Election Code: “Our election has come to the modern age and this, no one can deny. Thus, it is important that the Philippine legal framework of election adapt to the new realities. The basic election statute in the Philippines is still the 1985 vintage Omnibus Election Code… Reform in this area is crucial in achieving complete electoral reforms needed in our country”

  • On automated elections: “The law does not constrain Comelec to adopt ‘automated elections’ only… Theoretically therefore, future Philippine elections can still be fully manual, as it is likewise possible that they can be fully automated. Similarly, elections can be only partially automated and partially manual”

  • On helping the marginalized to vote: “No high-tech machines for the voting and counting processes can be as important as making sure that those who need democracy more are able to exercise their rights in a truly free and fair election, that is, in an election that gives sufficient ballot access to everyone without discrimination and an election free of threats and intimidation”

Speaking to Rappler, Guia said he wants to make the Comelec more engaging and more transparent. He also wants it to more closely involve civil society and watchdogs in elections.

For him, this will strengthen the credibility of the election process.

‘Yung mga eleksyon natin, hindi lang eleksyon ng Comelec ‘yan. Eleksyon ‘yan ng taumbayan,” Guia said. (Our elections are not only Comelec’s business but the people’s business.)

Will Guia, the former watchdog head, successfully implement the changes he has long wanted in the Comelec? His supporters hope so. –


Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.


Paterno 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