Press Release
February 5, 2008

Palace urged to pack with women two vacant Comelec posts

Sen. Loren Legarda on Tuesday urged Malacañang to fill with women the two remaining vacant seats in the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

"This will definitely give more meaning to the constitutional mandate for the State to recognize the role of women in nation-building," Legarda said.

The senator lamented that the seven-member Comelec has not had a female commissioner "for a few years now."

She noted that at one time, the Comelec had as many as three women -- then Chairperson Harriet Demetriou and Commissioners Teresita Dy-Liacco and Luzviminda Tangcangco. This was during the Estrada administration.

The late Haydee Yorac, a Yale University-trained lawyer and educator, was also acting head of the poll body when then chairman Hilario Davide Jr. was designated to lead the presidential commission that investigated the failed December 1989 rebellion.

"We are absolutely convinced that two highly qualified women in the Comelec can help rebuild the integrity of the electoral process, and restore the poll body's sullied image," Legarda said.

"Surely the country is not lacking in outstanding women with extraordinary independence and probity, who can contribute in a big way to guarding the people's voice in the next presidential elections," Legarda said.

The Comelec's reputation has been ruined by grave allegations that it failed to check massive fraud in previous elections.

The Palace recently named retired Supreme Court associate justice Jose Melo as the new Comelec chairman. He replaces Benjamin Abalos, who abruptly resigned in October to avoid impeachment in connection with his supposed complicity in the national broadband network project corruption scandal.

The terms of Commissioners Resurreccion Borra and Florentino Tuason Jr. expired recently, leaving two Comelec posts vacant.

Commissioner Romeo Brawner is now acting chairman of the poll body. Besides Brawner, the three remaining commissioners are Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer and Moslemen Macarambon Sr.

Melo had said he would assume his post only after the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA) confirms his nomination.

The Comelec is composed of a chairman and six commissioners, who each serve a fixed term of seven years, unless appointed to any premature vacancy, in which case the appointee would serve only the unexpired term of the predecessor.

The Constitution requires that a majority of the commission members, including the chairman, should be lawyers in practice for at least 10 years. Under the Constitution, the CA must confirm the chairman and every member of the Comelec.

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