IT is commendable and reassuring that the Commission on Elections has moved firmly and swiftly to address the rift within its ranks and end the recriminations among its commissioners.
By convening en banc yesterday to address the problem, the elections body indubitably prevented the situation from getting worse and enabled the battling commissioners to cool off and good sense to prevail.
The touchy situation would not have developed had there been better leadership at the Comelec, and more mutual respect and cohesion among the commissioners.
Some will say that Chairman Andres Bautista must take a good part of the blame because he ignited the current controversy by placing under a cloud the submission to the Supreme Court by Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon of Comelec’s comment on the Grace Poe certiorari. Bautista issued a memorandum to Guanzon on the comment, and then he seemed to have leaked it to the media, although in a radio interview yesterday he was claiming to have been surprised that his memo had reached the press.
But others would also blame Guanzon–for filing the comment without giving the body’s chairman and the other commissioners an opportunity to review the document she signed and got the Law Department to submit to the High Court without authorization.
In his memo, Chairman Bautista asked Commissioner Guanzon and Comelec Law Department Director Norina Casingal to explain the unauthorized filing of the Comelec’s comment to one of the petitions for certiorari against the Comelec’s cancellation of Senator Grace Poe’s candidacy president in the 2016 elections. He questioned Comelec’s filing of the document with the Supreme Court on Thursday morning “without obtaining any clearance from the en banc or the office of the chairman.” Only Commissioner Guanzon’s signature is in the comment filed. Bautista asked Guanzon under whose authority was the comment filed. He said he and the other members of the Commission did not see the document before it was filed.
He warned Guanzon that if her explanation does not prove satisfactory, he might |inform the Supreme Court that the filing of the comment was unauthorized.
Guanzon replied that Bautista’s memo damaged the image of the Comelec and may prejudice the Comelec case before the SC. Guanzon added that the comment had the imprimatur of the whole Comelec.
In all this, it is well to remember that the Comelec is a collegial body, meaning that the seven commissioners serve and act together, not separately. All are equal, no one is subordinate.
The elections body has been thrown into confusion by the efforts of the camp of Senator Poe to sow intrigue among the commissioners, and to paint the Comelec as an institution in disarray.
The Comelec can set this situation to right by declaring emphatically its constitutional powers and jurisdiction. And by showing the nation and all parties to election disputes that it is a cohesive and responsible body that will perform its functions and duties according to its best lights, and serve the public interest.
When the Comelec turns to these roots, its authority cannot be challenged, least of all by a candidate of dubious eligibility.