Comelec

New Comelec chief should show leadership, speed up Marcos rulings – ex-officials

Dwight de Leon
New Comelec chief should show leadership, speed up Marcos rulings – ex-officials
'The chairman is not just there as palamuti or to break the tie. He's there to ensure the fair administration of justice,' asserts former Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon, who believes new chief Saidamen Pangarungan can get things done

Two former poll officials called on new Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairperson Saidamen Pangarungan to play a more proactive role in speeding up the resolution of the cases seeking to bar former senator and late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. from the 2022 presidential race.

In an election webinar conducted by pro-democracy group Participate, former commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Luie Guia expressed optimism that with the seven-member Comelec en banc – the institution’s policy-making body – now complete, the poll body could fast track the rulings on the petitions.

Guia and Guanzon were part of the Comelec in 2015, when the poll body took only 68 days to clear its desks of all cases seeking to block the 2016 presidential bid of then-survey frontrunner Grace Poe. For the anti-Marcos cases, the Comelec has taken twice as long.

“[Pangarungan] should show leadership unlike [retired chairman Sheriff] Abas. But it was a division thing, you know, that’s why he did not want to overstretch,” Guanzon said on Friday, March 11.

“The chairman is not just there as palamuti (decoration) or to break the tie. He’s there to ensure the fair administration of justice. That’s the point of being chairman,” she added. “I have no doubt this chairman has more gravitas. If necessary, he will put his foot down.”

New Comelec chief should show leadership, speed up Marcos rulings – ex-officials

Guia agreed, saying it’s the elections chief’s responsibility to monitor the progress of case adjudication.

“He must also understand the reason for the delay so that [if] adjustments in the rules are needed, the right solution can be had,” Guia told Rappler after the virtual forum.

During the webinar, Guia also said that the new commissioners could focus on helping reduce the number of Comelec’s pending cases since most administrative matters were already set long before the May 9 elections.

“More people studying cases and preparing drafts, coming up with decisions, would always be better than when there were fewer commissioners. Seven is better than four,” Guia said, referring to the three new additions to the Comelec en banc.

Aside from Pangarungan, election lawyer George Garcia and social welfare undersecretary Aimee Torrefranca-Neri were named commissioners by Malacañang on Tuesday, March 8.

New Comelec chief should show leadership, speed up Marcos rulings – ex-officials

Currently, there are four unresolved cases against Marcos in the Comelec, namely:

  • Lihaylihay vs Marcos (petition to declare as nuisance candidate) – junked by the Comelec 2nd Division
  • Buenafe et al vs Marcos (petition to cancel certificate of candidacy) – junked by the 2nd Division
  • Ilagan et al vs Marcos, Akbayan et al vs Marcos, Mangelen vs Marcos (consolidated disqualification petition) – junked by the 1st Division
  • Salandanan et al vs Marcos (disqualification petition) – pending with the 2nd Division

Garcia, who lawyered for Marcos in his electoral protest following his failed 2016 vice presidential bid, has inhibited from all of these cases, most of which cited the former senator’s tax conviction in the 1990s as basis to remove him from the presidential race.

Other commissioners in the en banc are Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo, Aimee Ferolino, and Rey Bulay.

All seven of them were appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte – a scenario similar to 2016, when all appointees of the Comelec were appointees of then-president Benigno Aquino III.

Guanzon on Friday asserted it was important that Marcos’ disqualification saga be resolved before the elections.

“The important thing is to decide on that before May 9 for the sake of the people. And the Supreme Court can rule on it before May 9 so that there’s stability in our elections and our democracy,” she said.

In 2016, two months before the May polls, the Supreme Court had ruled that Grace Poe was allowed to run for president. Now, the anti-Marcos cases have not yet reached the magistrates at the Supreme Court as the Comelec has yet to resolve them either at the en banc or division level.

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The challenges to Marcos’ candidacy have opened the floodgates to multiple scenario-building, specifically as to what will happen should he be disqualified before or after the polls.

If he is disqualified before election day, Marcos could be substituted by someone with the same surname.

If Marcos wins the presidency but is disqualified only after the polls, the Comelec said the likely scenario is that the winner of the vice-presidential race would succeed him.

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.