Aquino names 2 Comelec commissioners

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday, March 7, said he has appointed a former ambassador and an election lawyer as new Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioners.

Aquino appointed Macabangkit Lanto, a former ambassador, and Bernadette Sardillo, an election lawyer, as replacements for retired Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco. 

On Lanto, Aquino said: "He has proven his worth, I believe, during times that he performed or tried to perform his function when the higher-ups were preventing him from doing what should have been done. And, again, the track record is very extensive."

The President described Sardillo as a lawyer who fights for people's rights.  "She has demonstrated her mettle in defending the rights of the citizenry in, well, several particular election contests especially in the last electoral exercise," he explained.

In a message through his Twitter account, Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes welcomed their appointment.

I welcome the appointment of Atty. Maria Bernadette Sardillo and Atty. Macabangkit Lanto as new @ comelec Commissioners. — Sixto Brillantes Jr. (@ChairBrillantes) March 7, 2013

Ex-solon, young lawyer

Lanto, the Philippines' former ambassador to Egypt and Sudan, also used to serve as congressman. A lawyer, he likewise occupied the post of justice undersecretary. 

In October 2011, Sen Franklin Drilon asked the President to appoint Lanto as officer-in-charge governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Drilon said Lanto “possesses the combined skills of a diplomat, a graft-busting prosecutor and effective manager-bureaucrat.”

Sardillo, on the other hand, is relatively young, having finished her law degree at the Ateneo de Manila in 2000. She used to lawyer for retired Supreme Court Justice Dante Tinga – Brillantes' former client, too.  

This ends an over two-month wait for new commissioners to fill Comelec vacancies. The poll body has two months left before the May 13 midterm elections.

Chaired by Aquino's former election lawyer Brillantes, the 7-member Comelec is now dominated by Aquino appointees. Aquino appointed Brillantes, and Comelec Commissioners Christian Lim and Grace Padaca. –

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