Controversy forces Lanto to decline Comelec job

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Overwhelmed by the controversy surrounding his appointment, former Lanao del Norte Rep. Macabangkit Lanto has declined his appointment as election commissioner.

Lanto on Monday sent a letter to President Aquino conveying his decision. “With deep regret, I respectfully decline my appointment as a member of the Comelec [Commission on Elections],” he said in the letter dated March 9.

“After a thorough consultation with my family, I have arrived at this decision, owing in large part to the controversy that surrounded my appointment,” he said.

Lanto, 70, is a nominee of Sen. Franklin Drilon, campaign manager of the Liberal Party (LP) coalition’s Team PNoy, who is gunning for a 12-0 sweep of the senatorial elections.

The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) had wanted Malacañang to withdraw Lanto’s appointment, saying Drilon should apologize for allegedly misleading the President on Lanto’s background.

Unseated as congressman for alleged poll fraud, Lanto is also accused of coercing election inspectors in Lanao del Sur in the 2007 elections. The offense is punishable by disqualification from holding public office and up to six years in prison.

The Comelec law department has recommended to the commission en banc that Lanto’s case on alleged coercion be dismissed apparently for lack of probable cause.

“Complainants failed to sufficiently establish (Lanto’s) presence more so his participation in the incident… The complaint against respondent Macabangkit Lanto is hereby dismissed for lack of probable cause,” said the 10-page recommendation dated Jan. 12, 2008.

The Comelec en banc would have the final say on the case.

‘Delicadeza’

Malacañang on Monday welcomed Lanto’s withdrawal of his appointment to the Comelec, calling it a demonstration of personal delicadeza (sense of propriety).

“The highest consideration for the country is to restore confidence in the electoral system. Mr. Lanto’s decision to withdraw as commissioner of the Comelec is a demonstration of personal delicadeza and gives the President an opportunity to make a new appointment to the position,” Undersecretary Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, said in a statement.

As of 1 p.m. on Monday, Valte said Malacañang had not received a copy of Lanto’s letter manifesting his rejection of the appointment.

She did not respond when asked whether Malacañang had talked Lanto into withdrawing from the appointment in view of the criticisms.

On Sunday, Valte defended Lanto from opposition criticisms that he had been recommended to the Comelec to commit fraud and ensure victory for Team PNoy senatorial candidates.

“You know, those fears are unfounded and unsubstantiated. They’re saying [the administration wants] a 12-0 sweep, implying cheating. That’s unsubstantiated. There’s no truth to those allegations,” Valte said over government-run radio.

Sardillo

The President announced the appointments of Lanto and Bernadette Sardillo as replacements for retired Election Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco in Davao City on Thursday.

Sardillo declined her appointment for personal reasons, while Lanto’s appointment was greeted with criticism over his possible role in electoral fraud.

In the face of criticism, Malacañang said on Friday it was reviewing Lanto’s appointment after belatedly learning that the former congressman of Lanao del Norte’s second district was removed from his congressional seat in 1994 for electoral fraud.

The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) ruled that Lanto appeared to have been a beneficiary of fraud, citing two falsified certificates of canvass, which had been derived from tampered election returns.

Valte said Malacañang would announce new appointees in place of Lanto and Sardillo “at the appropriate time.”

Incessant media focus

While reiterating that he did not commit electoral fraud, Lanto acknowledged that the “incessant media focus” on his HRET case 20 years ago made the past few days difficult for him and his family.

“The case overshadowed my public service record and as a result, I will find it extremely difficult to pursue my advocacy for electoral reforms in the Comelec,” he said.

“I maintain that I was the victim, not the perpetrator of electoral fraud,” Lanto added.

Lanto hit back at his critics for ignoring his 30 years of government service and for questioning his reputation based solely on the electoral protest case.

Proud of record

“I have been in government service for more than 30 years, holding high and sensitive positions in the bureaucracy, and never was I ever involved in any case of fraud, corruption or misconduct. I am proud of my public service record,” Lanto said.

He claimed that his appointment to key government positions by Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the past have gone through background investigations. “[I] passed the scrutiny with flying colors,” he said.

But despite his decision to reject the appointment, Lanto assured Aquino that he would pursue reforms in the electoral process in his personal capacity.

Lanto’s refusal to accept the post of election commissioner may have spared the Palace from a measure of controversy, but UNA said the administration still had some explaining to do.

Be frank Frank

UNA said Malacañang’s Cabinet search committee still had to account for why it apparently overlooked Lanto’s alleged poll fraud case before choosing him to be the next Comelec commissioner.

UNA secretary general Toby Tiangco said Drilon also had his own explaining to do and could not just untangle himself from the controversy.

“Although we commend Macabangkit Lanto’s decision to graciously decline his appointment to the Comelec, the story does not just end there. Drilon should also explain his role in the selection process,” Tiangco said in a statement.

He reiterated UNA’s allegation that the LP wanted to have its own people in the poll body to ensure the party’s victory in the forthcoming elections.

‘Hogwash’

At the Team PNoy sortie in Gumaca, Quezon, Drilon said linking his recommendation of Lanto to the Comelec to a plot to control the poll body was hogwash (kalokohan).

“It’s unfortunate it happened,” Drilon said of reports linking Lanto to poll fraud in previous elections.

But to say that he himself was laying the ground for control of the Comelec by the administration “is malicious” and “a lie” that could be blamed on “politics,” the senator said.

Drilon acknowledged recommending Lanto initially in 2012. “That’s not denied.” The senator said he “did not see the case (against Lanto) at the time” he made the recommendation. “I did not know the details …. I did not know that it was fraud. I did not know that.”

As things stand, Drilon said he had no plans to recommend another individual to the Comelec.

Surprised

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. expressed surprise over Lanto’s decision to turn down his appointment, saying “I thought all along that he was going to fight for it and clear his name.”

He said he believed that Lanto’s HRET case should have died down since it happened two decades ago.

The poll chief said he was hoping that it would not take long for the President to find two new appointees. “Hopefully, within another 10 days,” he said.

Brillantes said that while the Comelec was in the implementation stage of the election preparations, the two new commissioners would be a big help in dispensing pending cases in the poll body.

The Comelec-Employees’ Union, meanwhile, pushed again its two nominees for the vacant posts—Comelec planning department head Ferdinand Rafanan and election officer Alexander Pilotin of Santiago City, Isabela.—With a report from Leila B. Salaverria

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  • http://www.yellowmythbusters.gov.ph/ Weder-Weder Lang

    Lanto never learned his lesson. This is not the first time Drilon is lobbying for one of his bata-bata to get into an important position. Back in Oct 2011, Drilon lobbied very hard to get Lanto as the OIC forARMM. Lanto’s dark secrets were scrutinized but he ultimately did not get the job. Before showing up in Comelec last Friday, Lanto should have thought more carefully if really wanted to be Drilon’s patsy. For allowing himself to be used by Drilon, Lanto deserved all the flak the took.

  • johnlagrimas

    It shows drilon and his cohorts hunger for power – very obvious ‘team patay’.

  • tra6Gpeche

    Mabuti naman at meron pang Pilipino na may delicadeza. Akala ko ay namatay ng lahat ang Pilipinong may hiya sa katawan!

  • Gloria_UNArroyo

    Tobyrroyo di ba ikaw yung witness ni Coronarroyo para di sya ma-impeach?
    Nag-decline na si Llanto na nagtrabaho dati sa 2 amo mong dating Presidente pero ayaw mo pang tigilan.
    Bago ka mambato ng putik linisin mo muna sarili mong bakuran at puno na ng taeng umaalingasaw. Kagaya ni Zubiri na sa national eleksyon pa nandaya.
    Nakipagalyansa pa kayo sa mandaraya ng 2 eleksyon na si Arroyo at 3 kandidato nya sa UNArroyo party. Bata ni Arroyo si Migs, Mitos at Enrile.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003551588483 Morethan Words

    Bakit di to kaya gawin ni Padaca for delecadeza? Me kaso pang nakabinbin..guilty or not guilty dapat inayawan muna nya ang ma upo kahit anong pwesto sa gobyerno.

  • Guest

    Drilon should also explain his role in the selection process. Sa
    kagustuhan nilang manguna sa 2013 at 2016, kailangan nilang maniobrahin ang
    Malacanang para maipasok ang mga tao nila sa Comelec.

  • Guest

    Kaya nga malaki ang role ng LP at ni Drilon sa appointment na yan ni
    Lanto. Dapat ipaliwanag nila kung paano nakalusot yang si Lanto.

  • Guest

    Kahit na tinanggihan ni Lanto ang position sa Comelec, I’m sure may plan
    B pa rin si Drilon at ang LP para sa 12-0. Ano kaya yun?

  • Guest

    Questionable nga appointment ni Lanto sa Comelec because he did pass
    thru search committee. Pinalusot lang nina Drilon at Abad.

  • maximaT91

    Lanto declined his appointment in Comelec. Buti naman. Napigilan ang plano ng LP na “Hello Lanto?” sa May elections.

  • amelius23

    It is high time for PNoy to consider a Comelec insider in the person of Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan to fill up one vacant position up for grab at the Comelec. Even Comelec chair S. Brillantes knows the intricacies of a nationwide election and at this crucial time need an honest and competent Comelec commissioner like Atty. F. Rafanan to help the rest handle election process. With almost new comers remaining in the Comelec without experience in handling political shennanigan operators, Comelec will be relegated to its marginal stature with people’s doubt about fair election results. This time PNoy should be guided by his own guts feeling of what is right for the Filipino people and not about the 12-0 win for LP coalition candidates. But this is possible if all mechanism of fairness is in place and with the meticulous oversight of the PCRV, Namfrel, Kontra Daya, VACC, CBCP and other concerned private organisations who believe in the chastity of the ballots.

  • kilabot

    in fainess to lanto, 
    he has a performance to show, bad or good; 
    noykapon’s stint in politics as cong, sen, and now pres, 
    has a spotless record of done nothing.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WFPNF4G3MOXPABMZECBA63ST6M Eric

      You are most definitely an idiot! I hope you have a relative living outside of the Philippines and ask them what is their impression of the President. They would definitely say that you have a better President than your FAVORITE corrupt president Arroyo. 

  • JasonBieber

    They are trying to make this as if Lanto is doing something awe-inspiring for the nation by declining but in reality had no one noticed his past, he would have most definitely accepted.

    The terrible part in all this is Drilon was trying to pull as fast one on PNoy and the worse part is that PNoy actually fell for it and appointed Lanto…not until there was so much outcry that Lanto was forced to decline. Again, just think about…PNoy already appointed a guy who was involved in poll fraud to Comelec the body handling polls.

  • ARIKUTIK

    Victory for the people. The LP CHEAT was caught in the act.

  • $23257130

    wow ha grave na talaga ang corruption sa panahon ni abnoytard. pppppppppppppwwwweeehhhh kadiri eeeeeeewwwwwwww

  • BOYPDAF

    Sabi ni Drillon hndi nia alam at di na daw cia magrerecommend,nabuking lang kasi akala limot na after 2 decades hehe,imposible na hnidi alam ni Drilon na natanggal si LANTO sa HRET..eh ultimong malilitt na chismis sa house and senate alam ng mga iyan..tpos ngrecommend ka ng hnidi ka ngbackground check..para bang nagrecommend ka ng TUBERO pero KARPINTERO pala ang expertise nia..ganun!

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