Palance urged to appoint Young Turks in Comelec

Written by Aries Rufo
Friday, 30 May 2008

Former poll officials and poll lawyers said the President should consider appointing young people in the Commission on Elections (Comelec), even as they joined the mounting chorus urging Arroyo to fill up the vacancies in the seven-man body.

Former commissioners Manolo Gorospe and Mehol Sadain said Comelec needs "young and experienced commissioners, in their 40s or 50s," noting that the job also entailed field and administrative work, which can be exhaustive.

They were apparently referring to the sudden death of Commissioner Romeo Brawner who suffered a heart attack following an executive check-up at St. Luke’s Hospital. Brawner was 72.

Brawner had just arrived from a 10-day trip in Sri Lanka to observe the conduct of the elections there. Along with other Comelec officials, he also joined the three-day "goodwill games" of poll employees in Regions 1, 2 and 3 and the Caraga region.

Gorospe said the job of a poll commissioner "is not confined in the four corners of an air-conditioned room. You also go to the field, supervise elections and election officials."

As administrators of poll exercises, Sadain said poll commissioners are required to be in the field "to interact with poll personnel and attend administrative problems." Remote-control supervision is hardly advisable "in cases where instant reaction or solution is required."

Appointing younger commissioners will also make the Comelec more adaptable to inevitable changes such as technological improvement in the conduct of the polls, said Sadain, who was only 44 years old when he was appointed commissioner. "The commissioners have to be technologically-savvy. If you are older, it takes time to be appreciative of new technology."

Sadain is referring to the long-delayed poll automation, which has failed to take off after several attempts by previous poll chairmen. Poll modernization was initiated during the time of former chair Christian Monsod in the 90s. After almost 20 years and four Comelec chairmen later, the country’s conduct of elections remained manual and archaic.

The 2004 presidential elections would have been the first time that voting and transmittal of election results were automated but the Supreme Court scuttled the plan when it declared the bidding and award of contract to be null and void.

Gorospe said the President should also consider plucking people from other fields other than the judiciary. He noted that the President’s appointments to the poll body lately were retired members of the judiciary.

The late Brawner had just retired from the Court of Appeals as presiding justice when he was tapped to the Comelec. Comelec chair Jose Melo, 76, who was appointed last February , was also a retired justice of the Supreme Court. Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, 75, was also a retired justice of the Sandiganbayan.

Commissioner Moslemen Macarambon, 67, was a trial judge in Iligan City. The youngest among the Comelec commissioners, Rene Sarmiento, 54, is the only one who did not come from the ranks of the judiciary. He was a practicing human rights lawyer and member of the peace panel when he was named to the poll body.

Gorospe said there are other equally competent individuals who could fill up the shoes in Comelec. He said appointments from other fields of expertise would benefit the Comelec as a collegial body. Gorospe is also president of the Association of Former Retired Comelec Chairmen and Commissioners Inc.

Elections lawyer Sixto Brillantes, in a separate interview, agrees with Gorospe and Sadain that Comelec needs a fresh infusion of "new blood with innovative ideas." He observed that the job in Comelec is not only exacting mentally, but also physically.

A Malacanang search committee has submitted to the President a short list of recommended nominees to the poll body but the President has not acted on it.

The two former poll commissioners and Brillantes also urged the President to fill up the three now vacant posts to ease the workload of the poll body. Brillantes noted that with Brawner’s death, pending protest actions, motions and resolutions will be delayed further as the now four-man body will have to divide among themselves the workload. "You have four of them working on the workload of seven people," Gorospe said.

The President’s appointment, however, will have to wait for two more weeks as Congress is still in session, Brillantes noted. An appointment while Congress is in session would have been futile since the nominee cannot assume the post until confirmed by the CA. Congress adjourns on June 14 and resumes session on July 27, and between those dates, the President can make an interim appointment which would allow a nominee to assume the post. (

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