2022 Philippine Elections

New Comelec exec faces resignation call as DOJ controversy surfaces

Dwight de Leon
New Comelec exec faces resignation call as DOJ controversy surfaces

Domingo Licuanan/Comelec

(2nd UPDATE) 'I am telling Attorney Neri that whoever your MBA or May Backer Ako is, he cannot influence the CA to set aside these allegations and confirm your appointment,' warns Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – Past controversies faced by the newest female commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) are threatening to spoil her chances in the body tasked to confirm her appointment.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a member of the Commission on Appointments (CA), was clear on Monday, March 14, that he is ready to block the confirmation bid of new poll commissioner Aimee Torrefranca-Neri.

He said Torrefranca-Neri could just resign and “run for her life.”

“I am telling Attorney Neri that whoever your MBA or May Backer Ako is, he cannot influence the CA to set aside these allegations and confirm your appointment. The Commission on Appointment takes this matter seriously,” he said in a statement.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio has accused Torrefranca-Neri of being a “fixer” when she was assistant secretary of the Department of Justice, the first of numerous posts she held under the Duterte administration.

Topacio had alleged that his client, convicted drug lord Herbert Colanggo, gave Torrefranca-Neri P10 million to “fix” a robbery case before the Supreme Court, but when he lost the case, the former justice official returned only P7 million and kept the P3 million.

In 2021, Torrefranca-Neri had accused Herajen Colanggo, Herbert’s daughter, of trying to extort P3 million from her, after Herajen supposedly asked the help of the then-DSWD official over a land dispute case. This resulted in the younger Colanggo’s arrest in August that year.

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Drilon said he was alarmed by the allegations against Torrefranca-Neri, which he said could “affect the integrity of the Comelec.”

“Her appointment has created a distraction that can jeopardize the Comelec’s constitutional duty to conduct a fair, credible and honest 2022 election,” Drilon added.

Torrefranca-Neri has denied the accusations, according to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

“I think Commissioner Neri is ready to answer these allegations, and at the proper time, she will call a meeting with the press. Right now, the commissioners are more focused on getting the job done, rather than other matters,” Jimenez added on Monday.

New Comelec exec faces resignation call as DOJ controversy surfaces

Prior to her appointment in the Comelec, Neri had worked in multiple government agencies in the past six years, including Bureau of Immigration, and Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Drilon claimed that Torrefranca-Neri jumping from one agency to another in the past six years reeks of unprofessionalism.

“Is that normal? Did Commissioner Torrefranca-Neri undergo a tour of duty during the Duterte administration?” he said.

Torrefranca-Neri was among the three people appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to the Comelec last week, alongside new Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan and Comelec Commissioner George Garcia.

New Comelec exec faces resignation call as DOJ controversy surfaces

Unless Duterte calls for a special session in Congress, the three can only be confirmed or rejected by the CA weeks after the May 9 elections.

Torrefranca-Neri has close ties with Duterte, who attended her wedding in 2012. Her husband calls the President, and senators Christopher “Bong” Go and Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa his godfathers on social media.

When asked about these controversies during a press briefing on March 16, Presidential Spokesperson Martin Andanar said: “The appointment of Commission on Elections Commissioner Aimee Neri is a presidential prerogative. The commissioner is the personal choice of the President, having served as the President’s lawyer in the gender’s office in Davao. Dumaan po sa vetting process ang kanyang appointment (A vetting process was conducted for her appointment).” – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

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