President Benigno Aquino III has sent a message to Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr., urging him not to go through with his threat to resign in protest against successive Supreme Court rulings adverse to the Comelec.
“I’ll talk to our chair. The elections are less than a month away, and it would be difficult to appoint a new chair at this late point,’’ the President told reporters in Lapu-Lapu City.
Mr. Aquino, however, said he was relieved to read Brillantes’ most recent comments, that his threat to resign was made on the “spur of the moment,’’ and that he would think things over this weekend.
“I think he will see that the country needs him to chair the Comelec at this crucial period. So do we need to meet? I’m at his disposal. When he feels that he’s ready to meet with me, I’m always ready to meet with him,” he said.
In a news conference in Lapu-Lapu City on Friday, Mr. Aquino said he would ask Brillantes to stay on because it would be difficult for him to look for a replacement now.
He urged Brillantes to “think more soberly and less emotionally” before making his decision.
Rebuffed by high court
Brillantes threatened to quit last Tuesday after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against a Comelec resolution restricting airtime for political advertisements during the campaign for the May 13 elections.
The Comelec limits each national candidate to 120 minutes of TV campaign commercials, and 180 minutes of radio commercials, and each local candidate to 60 minutes of TV commercial time and 90 minutes of radio advertisements for the entire campaign period.
The national television networks and radio stations, which stood to lose a lot in potential revenues, and reelectionist Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano went to the high court seeking a stop to the Comelec resolution.
It was the fourth adverse ruling against Comelec resolutions brought before the high court, including the party-list groups that the Comelec had disqualified, the Comelec order against the Diocese of Bacolod on its “Team Buhay/Team Patay” tarpaulins, and the election protest case on the Imus, Cavite, mayoralty race.
Brillantes said on Tuesday that he would meet with the President to find out if he should stay on as the Comelec chair. But in a radio interview on Thursday night, he said he was seeking a meeting with Mr. Aquino to press him to appoint the new commissioners to replace the two that had retired. Malacañang announced the appointment of Al L. Parreño and Louie Tito F. Guia earlier that day.
Aquino for airtime limits
At the Lapu-Lapu City news conference, the President said he agreed that limits should be set on airtime for campaigning candidates as letting officials spend indiscriminate amounts for an election campaign only encouraged corruption.
He recalled that he had voted against a similar measure while he was still a lawmaker.
“I don’t subscribe to the idea of adding to the costs of an election. It would only encourage officials running for office to succumb to temptation. You make the elections more costly. There will be more temptations to become corrupt,” he said.
He noted that there was a significant difference between the salaries of public officials and the amount a candidate spends during an election campaign, such as the cost of a 15-second ad on radio or TV.
On the appointment of the two new election commissioners, Mr. Aquino said he had consulted a wide range of people, including Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and the chief presidential legal counsel, among others, before he made the decision.
“I’m not a lawyer. They’re not in the circle of people I’m normally with. It’s important that people who have more competence in coming up with advice were consulted,” he said.
Mr. Aquino said he selected the best even if they might not know it.
Guia, he said, is known internationally as an election expert whose services were tapped by Kosovo during its transition from authoritarian rule to a democracy. With a report from Irene R. Sino Cruz, Inquirer Visayas
First posted 6:12 pm | Friday, April 19th, 2013