Comelec void may delay polls
The three vacancies in the Commission on Elections (Comelec), if not filled soon, could cause delays in the preparations for the May 14 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections and the 2019 midterm polls.
An election official expressed this concern on Monday, following the retirement of two poll commissioners on Friday and the exit of former Chair Andres Bautista last year.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that with only four members, led by acting Chair Al Parreño, the poll body might be more cautious in deciding on contentious issues.
“It is quite possible that this four-member en banc might feel some pressure not to decide on contentious issues,” Jimenez said on his blog, http://www.jamesjimenez.com/.
He said, however, that there was no legal prohibition against a four-member “short banc” acting like a full en banc.
“At some point, someone is going to say ‘shouldn’t we or just wait for the new chair or commissioners?’ It’s happened before, and I’m not betting against the possibility of such pressure being brought to bear again,” Jimenez said.
With only four members, the Comelec now has a “fragile quorum”—the legal minimum for the poll body to function and decide on issues, he added.
“The minute one of them becomes unavailable to sit with the others in formal session, the quorum is lost. That can get pretty tricky with the May 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections coming up,” Jimenez said.
Aside from Parreño, the three other commissioners are Louie Guia, Rowena Guanzon and Sheriff Abas, who has been nominated as Comelec chair.
Abas, however, cannot yet assume his new post pending his confirmation by the Commission on Appointments. He is set to appear before the powerful bicameral body on Feb. 7.
The Comelec was left with only four commissioners, following the retirement of acting Chair Christian Robert Lim and Commissioner Arthur Lim.
In October 2017, Bautista vacated his office after President Duterte accepted his resignation.
Despite the concern over the three vacancies, Jimenez remained hopeful that the Comelec could work as well under Parreño’s leadership.
“These caveats aside, it’s good to remember that a short banc is just as empowered—in all senses—as a full one,” he said.
Jimenez added: “The only difference, really, is that, with a short banc, you can probably expect a little more timorousness—but that’s a problem with people, not with the institution.”
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