Choices for Comelec chief down to four

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THE choices for a new chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) are down to four after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima opted out of the race.

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Mentioned as probable successors to retired Chairperson Sixto Brillantes Jr. are Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, Chairperson Winston Gines of the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board and Joey Peñafrancia.

Brillantes said the Justice secretary is the best person for the job because of her long experience as election lawyer.

He, however, disclosed that de Lima personally told him before he retired that she was not interested.

The former Comelec chief opined that the remaining four choices are equally qualified for the job.

But he pointed out that Rodriguez and Farinas are both incumbent congressmen, meaning they both ran in the May 2013 local and national elections.

As such, Brillantes explained, both of them are prohibited under the Constitution to be appointed as chief of the poll body.

“There is a provision in the Constitution that prohibits candidates in the previous elections to become Comelec chairman. They are incumbent congressmen,” he said.

According to him, the only way to accommodate Rodriguez and Farinas is to interpret that the last election would be the barangay (village) elections in October 2013.

As for Ginez, Brillantes said the LTFRB chief is more than qualified but his only drawback is age.

“He [Gines] is very young. For me, he should first become a commissioner, not immediately as chairman.”

Penafrancia is a close associate of Avelino “Nonong” Cruz, who served as Defense chief under the Arroyo government.

Brillantes, however, said Cruz is identified with Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, a possible candidate in the 2016 presidential elections.

“That’s his [Peñafrancia] disadvantage. You don’t want to appoint one who is identified with a very probable candidate in the 2016 polls,” he noted.

Brillantes, along with Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph, ended their terms at the poll body on February 2, leaving the Comelec with only four commissioners—Christian Robert Lim, Al Parreno, Arthur Lim and Louie Guia.

Lim now serves as acting chairman as the law prohibits the President from making an ad interim appointment while Congress is still in session.

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