MANILA, Philippines - A shortlist has been drawn up for new Commission on Election (Comelec) officials who will replace 2 commissioners who retired Saturday, a Palace official said.
Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigal Valte, however, said nothing has been finalized on who should replace outgoing Comelec Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco, whose 7-year terms end today, February 2.
"Wala pa ho tayong advice on any appointments for those posts. Hinihintay lang din po natin kung meron na pong ibibigay na papel ang Office of the Executive Secretary but, so far, wala pa po for those positions," Valte said on state-owned Radyo ng Bayan.
"Ang alam ko naman po may shortlist na," she added.
Valte allayed concerns that the retirement of Sarmiento and Velasco will affect preparations for the May elections.
"Dalawang opisyal lang po naman ito, 'yung iba pa ho naman nating kasamahan diyan sa Comelec ay nandiyan pa so hopefully, hindi naman po maaantala 'yung kanilang paghahanda," she said.
Valte said Aquino will make sure that the next appointees to the Comelec are fit for the post.
"Una, siyempre apart from the constitutional requirements, ang tinitingnan din ng Pangulo diyan is the ability to carry out the mandate of the Constitution. Kasi alam naman natin (that) the primordial mandate of the Comelec is to ensure honest, clean and peaceful elections. So tinitingnan din po ng Pangulo 'yung ability to carry out that mandate," she said.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, who led incumbent and former poll body officials in feting Sarmiento and Velasco on Friday, expressed hopes that the poll body's next commissioners will be appointed soon.
Brillantes and the remaining Comelec commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Christian Robert Lim, Grace Padaca and Elias Yusoph will split the work load that will be left behind by the retiring commissioners.
Brillantes said he will also offer the 2 commissioners consultancy positions so they can still help the poll body prepare for the mid-term polls.
Sarmiento was cool to the idea because he doesn't want to come across as clinging to his post. Velasco, for his part, expressed readiness to help the poll body in any way.
With their exit, President Aquino will be able to appoint 2 new commissioners that will give him a majority in the 7-man commission. Only Tagle and Yusoph will be the remaining appointees of former President Gloria arroyo.
There has been no word yet on when the appointments will be made, though Brillantes previously said he heard of over 50 applicants for the jobs.
An ABS-CBN source said among the frontrunners are a member of a watchdog group, a politician, and a trial judge.