Press Release
March 23, 2006


LEGAZPI CITY -- The political opposition is batting for the appointments of opposition nominees in the Commission on Elections.

Noting that there are now three vacant slots in the seven-man Comelec, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) said the appointments of opposition nominees will calm public apprehensions that the poll body has lost its independence and become subservient to Malacañang under the leadership of Chairman Benjamin Abalos.

The three vacancies in the Comelec were created with the compulsory retirement of former Commissioners Rufino Javier and Mehol Sadain and the non-reappointment of former Commissioner Manuel Barcelona.

Pimentel said the people have become wary of the holding of future elections if the Comelec will be led by the same officials whom they believe failed to act impartially and competently in supervising the 2004 presidential election which was widely perceived to be tainted with irregularities.

He said there is a loud public clamor for the resignation or impeachment of top Comelec officials not only for acting like surrogates of the Palace but also for their involvement in the anomalous P1.3 billion poll computerization contract which was voided by the Supreme Court.

If you put opposition nominees in the Comelec, that will have a powerful effect on the people in terms of restoring their confidence in the poll body. At least they are assured that the oppositions voice will be heard, the minority leader said.

Pimentel, however, said that the appointments of opposition nominees in the Comelec will be without prejudice to the plan of certain groups or personalities to file impeachment charges against Abalos and other election commissioners for approving the tainted computerization deal and other acts that constitute culpable violation of the Constitution.

He recalled that in 1984, former Camarines Sur Congressman Ramon Felipe was appointed Comelec commissioner by then President Ferdinand Marcos prior to the election of members of the Batasang Pambansa in response to the oppositions criticisms that the poll body was beholden to him.

During the Marcos years, the people were arguing against the holding of elections because they were concerned that President Marcos controlled the Comelec and the whole bureaucracy and therefore, the election would be rigged. In the face of the criticism, President Marcos allocated one seat in the Comelec to the opposition nominee, Ramon Felipe, to assuage the unease of the population over allowing the elections to be held under a Comelec with no voice from the opposition, the senator from Cagayan de Oro City said.

Under normal circumstances, Pimentel said that such approach should not be followed since the Comelec is supposed to be a neutral body that is not beholden to the President or to any political party.

With Commissioner Felipe in the Comelec, Pimentel said this helped ensure the election of at least 50 oppositionists out of the 200 members of the Batasang Pambansa. He said this would not have been possible had there not been at least one member of Comelec that was recommended by the opposition.

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