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Palace reviewing Lanto appointment

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda: Out of the loop INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang is reviewing the appointment of former ambassador and Lanao del Norte Rep. Macabangkit Lanto to the Commission on Elections after it learned that Lanto was unseated in 1994 for alleged electoral fraud.

But at press time Friday, Palace officials could not say if President Aquino could still withdraw Lanto’s appointment to the election body.

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The President himself announced the appointment of Lanto and election lawyer Bernadette Sardillo to the Comelec during a visit to Davao City on Thursday.

But although signed, the appointment papers have yet to be submitted to the bicameral Commission on Appointments for its approval since Congress is in recess.

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“We’re discussing options, but nothing to announce yet,” said a Palace official, who spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

Wasting no time, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda promptly issued a statement in an apparent attempt to spare Mr. Aquino from embarrassment.

“On the issue of Mac Lanto, this is our statement: Our Social Contract with the Filipino people includes the restoration of the credibility of the electoral process as one of its main tasks. Be assured that any concerns about Comelec appointments will be resolved in a timely manner,” said Lacierda.

Lanto is a consultant of the Senate committee on finance chaired by Sen. Franklin Drilon, a Liberal Party stalwart and campaign manager of Team PNoy.

Lanto is also a consultant of the Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment chaired by Senate president pro-tempore Jinggoy Estrada.

The House Electoral Tribunal unseated Lanto from his post as representative of the second district of Lanao del Norte in 1994, after serving for only two years. He was found by high court justices and other members of HRET to have won based on falsified municipal certificates of canvass and tampered election returns.

He reclaimed his post when he ran—and won—in the 1998 electoral battle for the same district.

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At a briefing in the Palace, Lacierda said he had no part in the vetting process prior to Lanto’s appointment.

“I’m not privy to… I’m not part of the search committee, so I’m not privy to the process. But let me ask the search committee if they were aware of this issue,” said Lacierda.

He said he was neither “in a position to answer” when asked if the President would  recall the appointment.

When he made the announcement of the appointment in an ambush interview in SM Lanang, the President said that he was “sending their appointment papers to Congress for confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.”

But Mr. Aquino’s spokesperson refused to confirm if Drilon indeed endorsed the appointment of Lanto.

“I cannot confirm that because I’m not part of the process,” was all Lacierda could say.

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TAGS: Comelec, Macabangkit Lanto, Malacañang, News
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