By Anthony Pagapulaan

An election watchdog expressed upset about appointing a former lawyer for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) due to fraud cases and other irregularities.

Photo Courtesy by Business Mirror / Jeni Anne Rosario

In an interview with Teleradyo on Tuesday, August 2, Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao said the assignment of George Garcia as chief of the independent constitutional commission poses risks to its credibility as there was a connection between him and Marcos Jr.

Garcia served as counsel during the then vice-presidential candidate’s electoral protests against former Vice President Leni Robredo in the 2016 polls.

“Medyo nakakagulat po siya at nakakaalarma kasi alam naman natin merong trust and credibility issues, I’m sorry to say, yung Comelec dahil sa documented cases ng fraud and other irregularities,” Arao said.

Although he applauded Garcia for his inhibition of the disqualification cases against Marcos Jr. in his brief time as Comelec commissioner, Arao still believed that inhibiting oneself is “not a sign of independence but at the most, a sign of prudence.”

“Hindi nakakatulong yung pag-recycle ng appointment para sa pagbibigay ng chairmanship sa isang dating abogado ng incumbent president, bukod pa sa iba pang mga pulitiko na naging kliyente niya dati,” he said.

Furthermore, Arao highlighted that wisdom should "preferably" be accompanied by expertise in automated elections and pure independence from the current president to become an effective head of the Comelec.

The convenor also called out Malacañang for Garcia’s appointment, given how he was previously bypassed by the Commission on Appointments as as commissioner, questioning why the shortlist was not published and the basis for appointing him.

On the other hand, in his first address as chair, Garcia has "rest assured" to uphold "impartial and independent" service and that the commission would focus on resolving issues concerning the office in his leadership in the poll body.

“These will include structural reforms that will strengthen good governance founded on accountability, transparency, and integrity,” he said.

Additionally, Comelec said the chair would inhibit cases that he has connections with and vowed that everything that he aims is for the betterment of the Filipino voters.

“Ganyan po talaga yung ginawa niya nung una siyang na-appoint na commissioner. Tsaka po, pinakita po niya pagdating po sa reforms, hindi po ito para lang sa isang partido kundi ang tinitingnan niya po dito yung wider view para sa kapakanan po ng ating botante," Comelec Spokesperson Atty. Rex Laudiangco said.

The spokesperson added that the new chair is esteemed to improve the "successful elections" and to provide Comelec its own office while it's under his control.

“Gusto rin po niyang ma-improve pa yung nai-deliver po namin na successful elections… At higit po sa lahat, talagang gustong gusto na niya po magkaroon ng sariling building at facility ang Comelec. Sa ngayon po kasi, kami’y nangungupahan sa Palacio del Gobernador at iba pang building dito sa Intramuros.” Laudiangco said.

Garcia himself confirmed to the media his appointment as chair of the Comelec through a document signed on Monday, August 1.

Months before the 2022 polls, former President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Garcia as Comelec commissioner, but his appointment was bypassed together with other Duterte appointees weeks following Marcos Jr.’s landslide victory.

Edited by Andreah Dianne Cartagena