PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd is no longer inclined to reappoint former Isabela governor Grace Padaca to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) after her confirmation, along with those of two other poll body officials, was bypassed by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) recently.
Padaca, according to an unimpeachable source of The Manila Times, is not likely to get another ad interim appointment from the President because she has pending cases at the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan.
“She failed to file her SALN [statement of assets liabilities and net worth]for three years when she was still governor. She has also a graft case,” the source said.
The Times tried to get the reaction of Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. and Malacañang spokesman Edwin Lacierda but the officials were mum on the issue. Coloma, in a text message, said he will have to verify Padaca’s status with the Office of the President.
Prior to the sine die adjournment of Congress, the CA did not act on the appointments of Padaca and Comelec Commissioners Louie Tito Guia and Al Parreño. Padaca’s term will only expire on February 2, 2018 because she is serving the remaining term of former Commissioner Augusto Lagman.
Parreño replaced Commissioner Rene Sarmiento while Guia replaced Armando Velasco.
The President will have to reappoint the officials, who will again be subjected to CA scrutiny in the next Congress.
Earlier this year, the Office of the Ombudsman asked the Sandiganbayan to proceed with the trial of Padaca, who is facing charges of malversation and graft.
The graft case stemmed from Padaca’s awarding of a P25-million grant to the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation Inc. that was disbursed without the concurrence or approval of the Isabela provincial board when she was Isabela governor.
Padaca entered a plea of not guilty on October 22, 2013. She had sought the dismissal of the charges claiming immunity from suit. Her lawyers said when Aquino appointed Padaca to the Comelec on October 2, 2012, she automatically enjoys the protection of Sections 2 and 3, Article 11 of the 1987 Constitution. The provision states that she is already an impeachable officer and only the House of Representatives has the exclusive power to do that.
But Ombudsman prosecutors argued that the former governor cannot hide behind her supposed immunity because the criminal charges were filed before her appointment to the poll body.
The Sandiganbayan also argued that such immunity could lead to an “abuse of political power of appointment” to insulate public officials from liability.