MANILA, Philippines—Who’s running the elections? The Comelec or the Supreme Court?
An emotional Commission on Elections Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. blurted out this question on Tuesday in front of TV cameras as he threatened to resign after the Supreme Court issued a status quo ante (SQA) order on Comelec rules limiting airtime for political advertisements for the May elections.
Brillantes said he would meet with President Benigno Aquino III to find out if he should stay as Comelec chief, pointing out that the SQA order was the fourth adverse ruling that the Comelec received from the high court in recent months.
“As far as I’m concerned, with the series of decisions coming from the Supreme Court, I said `it looks like they are the ones who are running the election. I thought it was us?’” Brillantes told reporters.
“I don’t understand … If they want to to regulate the campaign … the way of campaigning, then what will the Comelec be? Ano kami (What are we)? We’re useless here? Everything we do will be (stopped with a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court)?” he said.
Brillantes said the high court was apparently issuing TROs and SQAs “without really seeing all of the consequences.”
“I think their provisional authority to issue a TRO or an SQA is being used without really seeing all of the consequences. Every day we study (the elections) while different petitioners go (to the court),” he said.
“When you issue a TRO and you don’t know the consequences, maybe it was not properly studied,” he added.
Brillantes questioned the timing of the high court order against airtime limits for political ads and said it put the Comelec and the senatorial candidates “in limbo.”
“The petitions were filed in February, when the campaign period for the senatorial candidates began. Why issue a TRO or SQA in April? Why did it take so long?” Brillantes said.
“The (Comelec) resolution (on airtime limits) came out a long time ago. Why issue now when the first half of the senatorial campaign is already over? We don’t understand,” he said.
“So, everybody will be kept in limbo. Even the commission will not even know (what to do). Are we now going to keep quiet because of the status quo ante order and therefore there will be no regulation in so far as the advertisement period is concerned?“ Brillantes said.
Brillantes then noted that the Supreme Court had also issued a TRO on March 5 against the Comelec letter ordering the Diocese of Bacolod to pull down its “oversized” tarpaulin identifying the candidates it supported.
Then last week, the tribunal issued an SQA on the party-list groups that the Comelec had disqualified and then remanded to the poll body the electoral protest case regarding 2010 mayoralty race for Imus, Cavite.
“I’m not just disappointed. I’m very, very disappointed,” Brillantes said. “From the start, I felt bad. You could have allowed what happened in Bacolod to pass because it was a small thing and also the party-list issue because we had a hard time tackling that. Maybe, they also had a hard time.”
“But then, Imus came and what was an 8-7 vote (in favor of the Comelec) was reversed … We don’t know what to do in the Imus case because, up to now, we still don’t have a copy of the decision. So, it’s left hanging,” he added.
Brillantes met with his fellow commissioners before facing the media on Tuesday at the Comelec main office in Intramuros, Manila after hearing about the high court order.
“Initially, my reaction was maybe I’m the problem. Maybe I’m too strict. Maybe they think I really like this post. So, I met my colleagues and told them I will just have to rest a little (for) one day or two days and maybe talk to the President,” Brillantes said.
“I’ll talk to him and say, `Maybe I’m the problem. Maybe I should leave for now and you appoint someone else.’ I will study this. Seriously,” he added.
Brillantes said the critical phase in the preparations for the May elections was over and the Comelec senior staff can already handle the elections.
“Our work is finished. We’re winding up already. The dangerous (part) is over. I’ve even been able to travel. I think it’s about time. If I decide not to continue as chairman of this commission, I would have done my job already,” he said.
Mr. Aquino appointed Brillantes, 73, as head of the Comelec in January 2011 to replace then retired Comelec chair Jose Melo.
“I did not want this. I’m just doing my job here. I’m making the reforms necessary but if we get TROs and status quo ante orders, why should I make it hard for myself?” he said.
When asked if he already “had enough,” Brillantes said: “Not yet but I’m already getting tired. I’m not young anymore.”
The Comelec chair then became teary-eyed when asked if the tribunal was laying waste to the “reforms” he wanted to implement in the Comelec.
“Not really. I have an ambition. I want something…,” Brillantes said, his voice breaking. He did not finish answer and went inside his office.
Originally posted at 07:13 am | Tuesday, April 16, 2013