New Comelec chair should be independent, say bishops
MANILA, Philippines–An official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday urged President Aquino to appoint someone who is independent and can fairly evaluate the automated election system as chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the public affairs head of the CBCP, said the next Comelec chair should not be politically related to Aquino or to any political organization to bring back the election body’s credibility amid lingering doubts about the automated election
“The President should be careful in appointing the next head of the Comelec, who should be independent-minded and not politically beholden to him,” Pabillo told reporters in an interview.
The Comelec has been without a chief and two commissioners since Feb. 2, following the retirement of Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. and Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph.
Commissioner Christian Robert Lim was designated acting chair while Aquino has yet to appoint their successors. The remaining members of the Comelec en banc are Commissioners Luie Guia, Arthur Lim and Al Parreno.
Pabillo said it was also important that the new Comelec chair and two commissioners were not only lawyers but were also knowledgeable about information technology since the country has shifted from manual to automated balloting.
“[These qualifications] are important to bring back the credibility of the Comelec and to evaluate impartially the present automated election system,” said the prelate.
In January, Pabillo led 24 bishops in urging the Comelec, under Brillantes, to rescind a contract with Venezuelan poll technology provider Smartmatic for the diagnostics and repair of its 82,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
The bishops wrote a letter to the election body requesting that Brillantes, Yusoph and Tagle not sign the contract to give the incoming officials a chance to take part in the decision-making and remove any doubts the three retiring officials had benefited from the contract.
Pabillo has also staunchly opposed the reuse of the PCOS machines, some of which malfunctioned in the last elections.