By Mikha Flores, VERA Files
Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. is proposing that the two new commissioners President Aquino will soon appoint be named “consultants” first before their formal appointment to allow them to already participate in the poll body’s deliberations.
“The President can announce who will be appointed so that by Feb. 2 or 3 or 4, which is a Monday, the two can sit as consultants," Brillantes said.
Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco are retiring on Feb. 2, leaving Comelec with five members at the height of the preparations for the May 13 midterm elections.
Congress will go on recess on Feb. 8 until June 4, leaving only six days for President Benigno S. Aquino III to nominate Sarmiento’s and Velasco’s replacements and for the Commission on Appointments to act on the new appointments.
Brillantes said if the appointments cannot be made before the congressional recess, the President can at least announce whom he intends to appoint and have them serve initially as Comelec consultants.
This would allow the new members to participate in the deliberations of the Comelec en banc, although they would not be allowed to vote, he said.
Because of time constraints, ad interim appointees will likely replace the two outgoing commissioners.
Ad interim appointments are those made by the President while Congress is in recess. The appointees will be able to perform the powers and duties of a Comelec commissioner until their appointment is rejected or upheld in the next Congress.
Brillantes himself was an ad interim appointee when he first assumed the chairmanship of the Comelec, having been appointed by the President one day before the 15th Congress resumed its session on Jan. 17, 2011.
Meanwhile, the retirement of Sarmiento and Velasco will lead to the transfer of Lucenito Tagle from the second division to the first division which Sarmiento heads. Tagle and Elias Yusoph will become the two most senior members of the commission. Yusoph will be the presiding commissioner for the second division.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for “true.”)