By Mikha Flores, VERA Files
Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Monday incoming Commissioner Al Parreño should assume office and settle questions on his qualifications later.
Brillantes said he told Parreño, who was appointed last week, to ignore the critics questioning his lack of experience as a lawyer. “Tsaka na natin ayusin iyong mga problemang ganyan. Hindi ho nauubusan ng kritiko dito sa Pilipinas (Let’s settle those problems later. The Philippines doesn’t run out of critics).”
A number of lawyers have questioned Parreño’s appointment, citing his lack of experience as a lawyer. Under the 1987 Constitution, a Comelec appointee should have engaged in law practice for at least 10 years. Parreño became a lawyer in 2004, which means he has yet to meet the constitutional requirement.
Lawyers are divided whether the 10-year law practice applies to all lawyer-members of Comelec or just a majority.
For Brillantes, Parreño need not have the 10-year experience since non-lawyers are even allowed to become Comelec Commissioners.
“Maliwanag… Ang hindi abugado walang practice maski na isang taon maski na isang segundo. Bakit naman hindi pupuwede ang may nine years practice na? (It’s clear. A non-lawyer who has no legal experience, not even a year, not even a minute is allowed [to sit as Comelec Commisioner]. Why is a lawyer who has nine years practice not allowed?),” he said.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal was quoted as saying the 10-year requirement only applies to the Chair and the majority of the commissioners. Lawyer Katrina Legarda said in a radio show Parreño should have been appointed because of his background in Information Technology, and not so much as a lawyer.
Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said Parreño’s case should not be compared to the case of non-lawyers like Commissioner Grace Padaca, saying the two situations are “apples and oranges”.
“I think the Constitution is clear: members of the bar with 10 years practice. Statutory construction dictates that if it's clear, you don't have to analyze it. You don't have to interpret it,” he said.
(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)