2 weeks on the job, poll official goes on leave

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BARELY two weeks into his new position, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Sheriff Abas, who is said to be a nephew of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal,  has already gone on leave.

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This was confirmed over the weekend by his chief of staff, lawyer Ayla Salendab, saying Abas would report back to work on May 19.

“I don’t know when his  official leave started. All I know is he’ll be back on May 19. It is also possible that he might report back to work on a much earlier date,” Salendab told The Manila Times.

Abas’ office is located on the 8th floor of the Palacio del Gobernador building in Intramuros, Manila.

The building also houses the office of the Comelec chairman, the Comelec legal department, the en banc’s session hall and the offices of other commissioners.

But Abas’ office stands out among the rest because except for his chief of staff and a woman in front of a bare table, there are no other persons  inside the office, which has around  15 other tables, each equipped with a personal computer.

Abas, along with Chairman Andres Bautista and Commissioner Rowena Guanson, filled up the positions left vacant by the retirement of former Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. and former Commissioners Elias  Yusoph and Lucernito Tagle.

The three new Comelec officials were appointed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd last May 4.

Since his appointment, Abas has only attended one en banc session.

The Comelec holds its regular session every Tuesday.

Abas is as mysterious as  his supposed  uncle, Mohagher Iqbal.

The Manila Times asked for a copy of Abas’ bio-data and other details prior to his appointment as Comelec commissioner but his chief of staff politely said she knew nothing and could not provide anything.

Salendab also refused to comment on reports that Abas is a nephew of the MILF chief negotiator even as the  new poll chairman had confirmed it.

In an earlier interview with radio dzMM,  Bautista said Abas has personally admitted to him that that he is closely related to the Iqbal.

“He told me that they’re related. Abas claimed that he’s Iqbal’s nephew,” he added.

Abas is said to be around 36 to 37 years old, holds a law degree from the Ateneo de Davao University and was working with the Civil Service Commission office in Cotabato prior to his appointment as new Comelec commissioner.

Iqbal has also refused to confirm or deny that he is Abas’ uncle even as he said there is nothing wrong if ever a nephew of his is appointed  to any national position

It was earlier exposed by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano that the name Iqbal is not the true suname of the  MILF  chief peace negotiator, saying that the latter’s real name is “Datucan Abas.”

Iqbal reasoned out that using an alias is normal for “revolutionaries” like him but he neither confirmed nor denied that he is Datucan Abas.

But an election watchdog, the Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E), through co-convenor  Melchor Magdamo  earlier said   the appointment of Abas  was “unethical”   because the MILF is participating in the 2016 elections.

Last  May 6, the Comelec approved the application for registration and accreditation of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) as a regional party.

The MILF organized UBJP as a political party last year after it signed a historic peace agreement with the government aimed at ending the more than four decades of conflict in Mindanao.

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