MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III has until March 29 to fill up two vacancies in the Commission on Elections (Comelec)—though the election campaign season would already be in full swing by then.
But Malacañang appears to be in no rush to name the successors of two commissioners set to retire next week: Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco, both members of the Comelec’s 1st Division who will retire on Feb. 2 after completing a nonrenewable seven-year term.
The President was well aware of the ramifications of the vacancies on the work of the poll body during the May election, whose campaign period will officially start on Feb. 13, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told a Palace briefing on Friday.
She said the President is not really pressed for time to appoint the two new commissioners as the constitutional ban on appointments will only start on March 29 and end on May 13.
“Let’s give the President enough time because he wants to make sure that those he would be appointing to Comelec are fit to assume the mandate and duties left by the (retired) commissioners,” she said.
Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. has urged the President to immediately appoint successors to Sarmiento and Velasco so the new appointees could be properly briefed on the preparations for the May elections.
Naming the replacements before their retirement day of the two commissioners would really help the poll body, which is now swamped with work because of the upcoming elections, he said.
But even if Mr. Aquino were to do as Brillantes wants, the new appointees cannot immediately assume office because their appointments would need the concurrence of the congressional Commission on Appointments.
The President could conceivably fill up the vacancies after Feb. 9, when Congress is already in recess.
Under the Constitution, the President can issue an “ad interim” appointment, which is made while Congress is not in session, and that the appointee can immediately assume office.
Valte said she wouldn’t know if the Palace was already drawing up a short list of nominees.
“We will ask those concerned if they have prepared a short list already,” she said.