PHILSTAR

THE NATIONAL Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) has asked President Rodrigo R. Duterte to divulge his shortlist of candidates for appointment to the Commission of Elections (Comelec).

In a statement on Monday, the election watchdog cited the need for a transparent and clean appointment process for the three vacant positions at the election body given that elections are less than three months away.

“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 his inner circle,”Namfrel said.

The presidential palace said the selection process would be transparent and candidates would undergo a strict merit-based vetting process.

The Duterte government would “ensure honest, peaceful and credible elections on May 9,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said in a statement. “The conduct of the electoral exercise would fully conform to the requirements of the Constitution and law.”

On May 9, Filipinos are choosing the replacement of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who is barred by law from running for reelection and is limited to a single six-year term.

Three of Comelec’s members retired last week, leaving it with just four commissioners. It has since reorganized its two divisions.

Preparations for the May 9 elections would not be crippled by the recent vacancies, election spokesman James B. Jimenez said this month.

“Namfrel believes that by ensuring a transparent appointment process, the president will leave a lasting legacy of a strong, independent and credible Commission on Elections,” it said.

Comelec is composed of a chairman and six commissioners, all of whom have a seven-year term without reappointment. Presidential appointments must be cleared by the Commission on Appointments, which is composed of senators and congressmen.

Former First Division Presiding Commissioner Maria Rowena V. Guanzon, Former Comelec Chairman Sheriff M. Abas, and Former Commissioner Antonio Kho T., Jr., retired this month, leaving only four commissioners to decide on pending cases.

Its First Division this month rejected three consolidated lawsuits seeking to disqualify former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. from the presidential race. The decision is on appeal at the Comelec en banc.

In the ruling written by Commissioner Aimee P. Ferolino, Comelec said Mr. Marcos’s failure to file his tax returns in the 1980s, for which he was convicted for tax evasion a decade later, did not involve wicked, deviant behavior.

“There would be fewer complications if the decisions at the division levels were resolved before the commissioners’ retirement,” former Comelec Commissioner Luie F. Guia said this month.

Ms. Guanzon had accused Ms. Ferolino of delaying the decision so her vote for disqualification would not be counted after her retirement. She also said a senator from Davao was meddling in the case. Ms. Ferolino has denied the accusation.

Meanwhile, Comelec on Feb. 19 released a manual for voters on election day amid a coronavirus pandemic.

The use of face shields will be voluntary in areas under Alert Levels 1, 2 and 3, according to the rules. Each voter must undergo a noncontact temperature check at election precincts.

Voters who show symptoms would be barred from entering precincts but may still vote at isolated voting areas.

Comelec said voters must wear face masks and comply with minimum health protocols. — John Victor D. Ordoñez and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza



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