2022 Philippine Elections

Namfrel calls for transparency as Duterte takes time to fill Comelec vacancies

Dwight de Leon
Namfrel calls for transparency as Duterte takes time to fill Comelec vacancies

Comelec/Senate PRIB

Duterte has yet to unveil his picks for the three vacant Comelec seats around three weeks since the poll body saw simultaneous retirements

Election watchdog National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) urged President Rodrigo Duterte to make the process of appointing new poll officials as transparent as possible, to allay the public’s fears that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is run only by people who are either from his hometown or are part of his inner circle.

The seven-person Comelec en banc is currently three members short, following the mandatory retirement of chairperson Sheriff Abas, and commissioners Antonio Kho Jr. and Rowena Guanzon on February 2.

All the remaining four commissioners are people whom Duterte handpicked – three of them are from his hometown Davao City, and the other one is his frat brother from Muntinlupa.

In a statement, Namfrel asserted that an open appointment process will reinforce public trust to the election body.

“A transparent appointment process, with focus on qualifications and suitability for the job, will help dispel concerns that the Comelec as a constitutional body will be composed of individuals that only come from the President’s hometown, or who are inside the President’s inner circle,” Namfrel said on Monday, February 21.

Malacañang said on January 31 that Duterte already has a short list of potential nominees for the Comelec en banc vacancies.

But Namfrel said the Palace should welcome inputs from the public in selecting the nominees.

“Namfrel enjoins President Rodrigo R. Duterte to make public [his] short listed candidates, and to invite ordinary citizens to present comments, inputs, and personal information on the candidates, before the Office of the President makes the final decision on the appointments,” it added.

In response, Duterte’s acting spokesman Karlo Nograles assured the public later on Monday that the credentials of the potential nominees are being meticulously reviewed.

Namfrel calls for transparency as Duterte takes time to fill Comelec vacancies

“The President has committed that the selection of appointees to positions vacated by the recently-retired officials of the Comelec shall be completely transparent, with candidates undergoing a stringent merit-based vetting process,” Nograles said in a statement.

With the new appointments still pending, the Comelec is currently being led by its acting chairperson Socorro Inting, a former Court of Appeals justice who hails from Davao.

Other commissioners are:

  • Marlon Casquejo, a career official; a former assistant director of the Comelec’s Davao region office
  • Aimee Ferolino, another Comelec insider; a former election supervisor of Davao del Norte
  • Rey Bulay, Duterte’s frat brother and Manila’s former chief prosecutor

The composition of the Comelec, once Duterte unveils his picks, will be similar to the scenario in 2016, when all members of the en banc were appointed by the late former president Benigno Aquino III.

Filling the vacancies in the Comelec becomes especially crucial at a time when the poll body needs all hands to run a high-stakes vote that will determine Duterte’s successor. – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

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