2 former poll execs tell new Comelec appointees: Resolve election cases ASAP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 11) — The new seven-member en banc of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should prioritize resolving all pending electoral cases, two retired poll officials said, including those against presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos.

Former Commissioners Luie Tito Guia and Rowena Guanzon said it’s about time these petitions are resolved with barely two months left before the May 9 polls.

“There are many pending cases. If there is something that I think the new commissioners would have to do, of course the assumption of course is they are prepared to be judges of election cases then perhaps they should look at reducing the dockets of Comelec,” Guia said in a Friday webinar of the civic group Participate.

“In terms of the administrative work of Comelec, that is already set long before the elections… Andaming mga [there are so many] pending cases, especially those that needs to be resolved prior to election,” Guia added.

Six cases pending since November against survey frontrunner Marcos are either on appeal or up for decision before the poll body.

New Commissioner George Garcia on Thursday said he will not take part in these deliberations, with Marcos being one of his many former clients. Garcia was Marcos’ lawyer for his 2016 electoral protest, which was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

“More than 30 days just to release a decision, that's mediocre,” Guanzon added in the same forum. “’Yung cases, i-dispose na nila 'yan. Masyado nang maraming kumita diyan, pinapatulog ‘yung mga kaso para kumita [Those cases should already be disposed of. So many people have profited from them, they’re letting these cases drag on so they can make money].”

She did not provide further details regarding this claim.

Guanzon vouched for the qualifications of Garcia, Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan, and Commissioner Aimee Neri, who are all lawyers. She said having a full bench should make it even easier to settle all pending petitions before the poll body.

“They must free themselves from any political connections or partisan connections and be independent in the exercise of their function,” Guia reminded.

The three new officials will serve Comelec until February 2029 if confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. They have assumed their posts as ad interim appointees as they await the resumption of Congress.

Guia added that if there are doubts on their credibility and independence, the public may ask for any of the commissioners to inhibit in cases with perceived conflict of interest.

“The principle there is really vigilance,” he said when asked about doubts on the Comelec’s credibility.

“The only way that Comelec can of course overcome criticisms or issues on integrity of its processes and the outcome that will be produced by the elections they will run would be to allow utmost transparency,” Guia added.

On the controversial Operation Baklas, Guia said it might actually help Comelec as they can focus on other election activities while the temporary restraining order against the takedown of campaign posters within private property is in place.

For Guanzon, vote-buying and fake news are the biggest threats to the May 9 polls.