PUBLIC doubt about the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) independence could dissuade some Filipinos from voting, according to a local election watchdog.
“They might think that the Comelec commissioners are not impartial, and if you don’t trust the commissioners, some of the voters might not vote,” National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) Chairman August C. Lagman told the ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday.
Namfrel on Monday asked President Rodrigo R. Duterte to divulge his shortlist of candidates for appointment to the election body, whose three members retired 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.
Former Comelec Chairman Sheriff M. Abas and ex-Commissioners Maria Rowena V. Guanzon and Antonio T. Kho, Jr. have retired, leaving the election body with just four members.
Three of the four remaining commissioners are from Davao and are Duterte appointees.
“Choosing the Comelec commissioners from Davao was a mistake because they will be seen as siding with the president and will do whatever he tells them because they come from the same city,” Mr. Lagman 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.
Mr. Lagman said the president should release the shortlist so people can scrutinize them.
The Comelec 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, the election body 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.
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.
The presidential palace on Monday said the selection process for the Comelec vacancies would be transparent and candidates would be chosen based on merit.
The Duterte government would also ensure honest, peaceful and credible elections on May 9, Cabinet Secretary Alexei B. Nograles said in a statement.
“The sooner the president makes the appointments, the better,” Mr. Lagman said. “Trustworthiness in the Comelec is very important.”
Meanwhile, Comelec has issued an order allowing persons with disabilities, senior citizens and pregnant mothers to vote in special voting areas that will have ramps, sign language interpreters and accessible washrooms.
These can accommodate at least 10 people at a time, Comelec said. A family member or friend from the same household, or a Comelec staff can help the voter on election day. — John Victor D. Ordoñez