Grace Padaca new Comelec commissioner

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Former Isabela governor Grace Padaca on Tuesday October 2, was appointed commissioner for the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Malacañang confirmed the appointment. President Benigno Aquino III signed her appointment on September 28. "Aquino has written the CA (Commission on Appointments) for her early confirmation," according to Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

Padaca's term in the Comelec will be until Feb 2, 2018, according to Lacierda.

Responding to criticism that the appointment is questionable since Padaca ran for governor of Isabela -- but lost -- in 2010, Lacierda said: "The Executive Branch properly observed the constitutional provision. Commissioner Grace Padaca did not run in the immediately preceding election which was the barangay elections held last October 2010."

Section 1 of Article IX of the 1987 Constitution states: "There shall be a Commission on Elections composed of a Chairman and six Commissioners who shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and, at the time of their appointment, at least thirty-five years of age, holders of a college degree, and must not have been candidates for any elective positions in the immediately preceding elections."

Padaca replaces Augusto Lagman, who resigned April 17 this year. The Commission on Appointments refused to confirm him, and the Palace also decided to no longer re-appoint him.

A former broadcaster, Padaca won as governor of Isabela in 2004, ending the Dy family's control of the province. She ran for re-election in 2007 and won. In 2010, she however lost to Faustino "Bojie" Dy III. She filed an electoral protest against Dy with the Comelec, which is still pending. (Editor's note: We earlier reported that the Comelec has dismissed her protest. We were wrong. We regret the error.)

In May this year, the Sandiganbayan issued an arrest warrant against her in connection with pending charges of graft and malversation of public funds filed by the Office of the Ombudsman with the court.

Associate Justice Roland B. Jurado, chairman of the court's fifth division, signed the warrant on May 21, and set her bail bond at P40,000 for malversation and P30,000 for the graft case.

In an interview with reporters, Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr said Padaca will take over the functions vacated by Lagman, except the one concerning information technology (IT). "Hindi naman ata IT si Grace," Brillantes said. (I don't think Grace is an IT expert.)

PWD committee

But Brillantes said Padaca, a polio survivor, could handle the committee for persons with disability (PWDs), one of the few sectors that the Comelec considers vulnerable.

"I think that would be a good committee to be given to her. Meron kaming PWD committee, headed by Commissioner (Rene) Sarmiento. Siguro ita-transfer namin sa kanya," Brillantes said. (We have a PWD committee, headed by Commissioner Rene Sarmiento. We might transfer it to her.)

In any case, Brillantes said the Comelec welcomes Padaca's appointment. 

"Ilang buwan nang nawawala si Gus Lagman. So ngayon meron na kami. Kumpleto na kami ngayon, so wala na kaming problema. Hindi na kami magkakaro'n ng voting dito na 3-3... Pito na kami," Brillantes said. 

(It's been months since Gus Lagman resigned. Now we have a new member. We're complete, so we don't have a problem. We wouldn't have a 3-3 voting anymore... There's now 7 of us.) – with reports from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com