Press Release
November 20, 2007


In a bid for transparency in the selection process of the next Commission on Elections Chair, Senate Majority Leader and Independent senator Kiko Pangilinan today again urged the Search Committee to open up the procedure to the public.

" We challenge the Search Panel to conduct a transparent selection for the next COMELEC Chair similar to the JBC procedure wherein possible nominees are subjected to public interviews for the purpose of determining the fitness of the candidates. These potential nominees must make known their vision for the Comelec, their plans and proposals to modernize the election process, their stand regarding Lintang Bedol and other crucial issues that affect the Comelec today. These are valid issues that need to be answered by those who seek the post of Comelec chair or commissioner," Kiko said.

"The panel should be headhunters aggressively reaching out to the general public by way of a nationwide consultation process in search of the best and the brightest. We do not have a shortage of talent and skill as a people but without a transparent and participatory search we will not be able to get the much needed people with integrity, probity and independence. They need to inform the public of names submitted to it, and invite them to send position papers or information for or against the prospective nominees. Not only will it encourage participatory government, but it will likewise help the committee arrive at a credible decision," Kiko added.

The position of COMELEC Chair was vacated by Benjamin Abalos following his resignation last October 1, 2007 amid accusations that he brokered the National Broadband Network contract between Chinese supplier ZTE Corp. and the Department of Transporation and Communication.

The Search Committee is headed by Bernardino Abes, who served as labor secretary, and later as Social Security System chairman under the administration of President Arroyo's father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal. Members of the committee include businessman and key player of the National Movement for Free Elections Jose Concepcion, newspaper columnist Carmen Pedrosa, former Finance Secretary Vicente Jayme, and Democrito Mendoza of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines. The panel shall screen candidates with the end view of submitting to the Office of the President, for its consideration, a shortlist of qualified candidates, without ranking, not later than Dec. 15, 2007.

"We are willing to sit down with Mr. Abes and explore the adaptation of the JBC's selection process in this procedure. Public interviews will give credibility to the selection, and we hope that this will be conducted prior to the submission of the finalists to Malacañang. Make the nominees answer to the public's questions. Make them present their proposals for the reform of the COMELEC and Philippine elections. Scrutinize their track records and fitness for the position. Involve non-government organizations like the PPCRV, NAMFREL, CIMPEL, LENTE, and other election watchdogs to these public hearings, and together, discuss election modernization," Kiko added.

Kiko, likewise urged the media to participate in the process, "because we know how much more comprehensive information dissemination becomes when media organizations are involved." The Screening Committee, he said, should partner with the media in calling on the public participation in the selection process.

"We need to give the Screening Committee the benefit of the doubt, but it would be easier to do so if it will take the initiative of making the selection process very transparent. The Committee owes the public that, because the choice of COMELEC Chair is crucial if our constitutional democracy is to survive come 2010," Kiko ended.

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