Veteran election lawyer George Garcia named Comelec chairman

Dwight de Leon

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Veteran election lawyer George Garcia named Comelec chairman

POLL VETERAN. Then-Comelec commissioner George Garcia briefs the media before the start of the second presidential debate at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City on April 3, 2022.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Comelec Chairman George Garcia is an election veteran who once defended Ferdinand Marcos Jr., but still earned the confidence of lawyers from rival camps

MANILA, Philippines – Veteran election lawyer George Garcia is poised to return to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), now as its chairman, after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appointed him to the poll body.

Garcia on Monday, August 1, confirmed his appointment, sending media a copy of his appointment papers dated July 22.

He is the first election lawyer to lead the Comelec since Sixto Brillantes Jr., former lawyer of Benigno Aquino III, was named to the poll body in 2011. Election watchdogs and lawyers have often sought the appointment of poll veterans to the Comelec, given their mastery of the ins and outs of the Philippine election system.

Garcia was first appointed to the Comelec in March by then-president Rodrigo Duterte. A media-savvy figure, he became the face of the poll body during preparations for the 2022 elections. In June, however, shortly before Marcos took office, the Commission on Appointments bypassed Garcia, forcing him to leave the poll body.

Garcia replaces former chairman Saidamen Pangarungan, whom the CA simultaneously bypassed in June.

A high-profile election lawyer, Garcia represented Marcos during the latter’s electoral protest following his failed 2016 vice presidential bid. This history between Garcia and Marcos sparked fears in the past among critics, although election lawyers – including Emil Marañon, former counsel of then-vice president Leni Robredo – have come to his defense.

To dispel allegations of conflict of interest, he inhibited himself from cases involving Marcos in the run-up to the 2022 elections, including petitions seeking to bar his candidacy due to his tax conviction in the 1990s.

“The public’s confidence in the commission should not be eroded by any semblance of bias or prejudice,” he had said in his inhibition letter back in March. “As a newly appointed commissioner, it is my duty to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”

Garcia’s other clients in the past included former presidential aspirants Grace Poe, Ping Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, and Isko Moreno. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.