December 12, 2017, 9:39 am
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Abas at Comelec

PRESIDENT Duterte has appointed Elections Commissioner Sheriff Abas as its new chairman, to replace Andres Bautista who has resigned in the wake of the unexplained wealth controversy and possible election results rigging which were both denounced by his wife Patricia.

The new appointment of Abas is seen by most observers in and out of the poll body as a propitously good decision by Duterte. They cite as reason Abas’s being an insider in the Comelec for a number of years now, and thus he would need just a little adjustment to take the leap from commissioner to the Office of the Chairman.

The Comelec being a constitutional collegial body which functions as an en banc or as a whole and thus necessitates a harmonious relationship among its members would need a team player as leader, and Abas looks like he fits the bill.

Before his appointment as commissioner in May 2015 during the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, Abas was acting assistant regional director of the Civil Service Commission in the ARMM. If confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, Abas will serve until Feb. 2, 2022, the unexpired term of Bautista.

A nephew of MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, Abas will be the first Muslim to become Comelec chairman, the first Mindanaoan, the youngest at 38 years old, and the first commissioner of the poll body promoted to chairman.

This last record-breaking qualification raises some legal questions. Ruling on membership in constitutional commissions such as the Comelec, the Supreme Court in the case of Dennis Funa v. CoA chair Reynaldo Villar, said “a commissioner who resigns after serving the commissioner for less than 7 years is eligible for an appointment to the position of chairman for the unexpired portion of the term of the departing chairman.”

It would seem that Abas should resign first before accepting a new appointment as chairman. Has he resigned, some mediamen have asked? Former Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Abas can be promoted from commissioner to chairman because this will take the form of a new appointment and not a reappointment.

It would no be a problem for Chairman Abas to subject himself to another vetting by the CA because he had been there before and no scandal or controversy has been attributed to him during his several years in the poll body.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) headed by constitutionalist Rene Sarmiento has endorsed Abas to his new position, saying “his warmth, his demeanor, his years in the Comelec as one of the commissioners, his being a brother Muslim will give the Commission a kind of sensitivity and energy needed for the introduction of electoral reforms for the marginalized and vulnerable.”

The Comelec Employees Union also welcomed the appointment of Abas saying the Chief Executive made the right decision in appointing an insider.

We extend to Chairman Abas our heartfelt felicitations and hope that the Comelec will maintain its integrity as an institution under his stewardship.
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