DAVAO CITY, Philippines—President Aquino on Thursday appointed election lawyer Bernadette Sardillo and former ambassador and Lanao del Norte Rep. Macabangkit Lanto to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), replacing former Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco, both members of the Comelec’s 1st Division, who retired on Feb. 2 after completing a nonrenewable seven-year term.
Lanto and Sardillo will complete the composition of the seven-member Comelec en banc. The seven-member poll body is now dominated by five Aquino appointees.
Aquino made the announcement in an ambush interview here in SM Lanang, where the Inquirer asked about vacancies in Comelec.
He disclosed that he had a chance to interview at least three of them.
“I interviewed three in particular, and from the three, I had to choose two; and the two, I had already signed (on Thursday). We are sending their appointment to Congress for confirmation by the Commission on Appointments,” said the President.
Since Congress is in recess, the President has issued an ad interim appointment.
The President said Lanto had several portfolios in government, among them the Department of Justice.
Extensive track record
“He has proven his worth, I believe, during times that he performed, or tried to perform, his function when the higher-ups were preventing him from doing what should have been done,” said the President.
He noted that Lanto’s track record was “very extensive” as an ambassador to Egypt and Sudan.
Sardillo, on the other hand, has defended the rights of the citizenry in several particular election contests, especially in the last electoral exercise, according to the President.
One of these electoral exercises involved Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca, who was unseated by the poll body in 2009 after former Isabela Gov. Benjamin Dy was declared duly elected winner in the 2007 polls. Sardillo was Dy’s legal counsel.
Lanto’s appointment was backed by Sen. Franklin Drilon, who was present when Aquino announced the appointment of Lanto and Sardillo at SM Lanang.
Drilon said that Lanto possessed the “combined skills of a diplomat, a graft-busting prosecutor and effective manager-bureaucrat.”
“Lanto’s experience as a diplomat and as a tourism promotions undersecretary can be put to good use in restoring the prestige and the credibility of ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) as a foreign investment destination and recipient of foreign development assistance,” Drilon had said.
Lanto was once a Philippine ambassador to Egypt and Sudan.
He had also served as justice undersecretary, tourism undersecretary for promotions, and Speaker of the 2nd Regional Assembly for the then Autonomous Government for Central Mindanao from 1982 to 1987.
Despite his political connections, Lanto on Thursday said he would be an “independent” member of the poll body and vowed to work for clean automated elections this May.
“I am both humbled and honored by the trust and confidence bestowed on me by President Aquino when he appointed me as commissioner. I intend to reciprocate that trust with a firm commitment to join the current commissioners in upholding the impartiality, independence and integrity of Comelec to ensure the holding of honest, fair and orderly elections in May this year,” Lanto said in a statement.
In 1982, he was elected member and speaker of the regional legislative assembly of Central Mindanao autonomous government, serving until its abolition in 1987.
From 1992 to 1994, Lanto represented Lanao del Norte’s second legislative district in Congress, chairing the House committee on Muslim Affairs.
In 1996, President Fidel Ramos appointed Lanto tourism undersecretary for promotion, serving until 1998, when President Joseph Estrada named him ambassador to Egypt and Sudan.
Lanto was then appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as justice undersecretary in 2001. He resigned in 2007 to seek a congressional seat in Lanao but failed.
In 2011, Drilon endorsed Lanto to become officer-in-charge of the ARMM after Congress passed a law postponing elections there.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. welcomed the appointment of Lanto and Sardillo.
“I welcome the appointment of Atty. Maria Bernadette Sardillo and Atty. Macabangkit Lanto as new Comelec Commissioners,” Brillantes said in his Twitter account.—With a report from Matikas Santos, INQUIRER.net
Originally posted at 02:48 pm | Thursday, March 07, 2013