Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. is urging President Aquino to immediately name the successors of two commissioners set to retire next week to give the body ample time to brief their replacements in view of the forthcoming elections.
Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco, members of the Comelec’s 1st Division, will retire on Feb. 2 after completing a nonrenewable seven-year term at the Comelec. Their retirement comes at a time when preparations for the May 13 mid-term elections are in full swing.
“By Feb. 2, the President can’t still appoint but at least he can already announce who will replace the two so we could already invite them here and sit informally and we can start briefing them of the problems,” Brillantes told reporters Wednesday.
Sarmiento, 59, served as vice chairman of the government negotiating panel during peace talks with the communist insurgents during the Ramos administration. He also served as peace adviser to the Arroyo administration before being appointed election commissioner in 2006.
Velasco, 56, joined the Comelec in 1990 as an election officer in Baguio City. He was appointed in November 2008 to serve the five remaining years of the term of former Commissioner Moslemen Macarambon.
Brillantes said it would really help the poll body—which is now swamped with work because of the upcoming elections—if Malacañang would already name the replacements of Sarmiento and Velasco before their retirement.
He said the replacements not being able to immediately assume office because Congress is still in session was not a problem. “At least they would already know their duties and we’ll be able to discuss already their formal assignments,” Brillantes said.
Under the 1987 Constitution, an “ad interim” appointment is one that is made while Congress is not in session and that the appointee can immediately assume office.
An appointee or nominee will have to wait for the confirmation of the Commission on Appointments before they can assume office if their appointment was made while Congress was in session.
According to Brillantes, he had initially proposed to Malacañang to designate “consultants” to serve as Sarmiento and Velasco’s understudies so that they can easily turn over their duties and responsibilities upon their retirement.
“But this did not happen. I cannot dictate the President what he should do about it. It’s his prerogative,” he admitted.
Brillantes added that he also made a recommendation for Malacañang to consider appointing someone from the Comelec who already knew the workings of the election body. “It’s best if they get from the inside,” he said.