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New Comelec director vows transparency

I met the new Comelec law director in several conferences and meetings. He seemed to be an honest man, with integrity intact. So much unlike the others before him, who turned the hallways of Comelec and the restaurants in front of it into an extension of their wheeling and dealing, especially regarding party-list accreditation money matters.

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Written by Aries C. Rufo
Monday, 02 June 2008
Newly-appointed Commission on Elections law department director Ferdinand Rafanan has vowed to implement changes aimed at improving the Comelec’s public image.

Rafanan assumed today the "most dangerous post" in Comelec, besting four other applicants, including two senior Comelec lawyers. Rafanan’s predecessors, Alioden Dalaig and Wynne Asdala, were separately assassinated by hired gunmen.

Rafanan told abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak that he intends to impose ethical standards among the staff of the law department and to parties with pending cases at the Comelec.

"There will be a system in receiving and treating cases. Comelec lawyers will not be allowed to talk to the contesting parties outside of Comelec offices. If they have something to say, they should say that in their pleadings or during hearings," Rafanan said.

The assassinations of Dalaig and Asdala were believed to be connected to a pending poll protest case in Mindanao. During their time as law department directors, representatives from both the contending parties were freely entertained in their office.

Rafanan also said that journalists will have easier access to documents, as long as these involve "matters of public concern" and within the purview of the public’s right to information.

Previous Comelec law department directors were unusually wary of requests for documents, referring many of these to the en banc. Most often, requests were not granted and those approved by the en banc took months before these were released.

In the 2007 mid term elections, the law department under Dalaig then denied access to nominees in the party-list elections. It took an order from the Supreme Court for the law department to open up the list.

Independent
Rafanan said his appointment is a vindication of sorts and an indication that the Comelec under chair Jose Melo "is really for change" and that he appreciates independence of mind.

In several instances, Rafanan’s independence of mind and outspoken attitude have put him in hot water. When Bernardo Pardo was chair, he was transferred to Mindanao, from his post as information and education director, when he warned that candidates face disqualification for violating campaign rules with the indiscriminate posting of campaign paraphernalia.

When Benjamin Abalos was chair, Rafanan was placed on a "floating status" when he questioned the verification of signatures by Comelec personnel in connection with the administration-backed people’s initiative. Rafanan merely raised the fact that the Supreme Court specifically had barred the Comelec from acting on any petition for a people’s initiative. (abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak)

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