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Comelec must quickly end internal controversy

THE presidential election has just been held, for which the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has been cited for its admirable job, but it now seems to be embroiled in an internal controversy that could hamper its preparations for the next set of elections – the Barangay and the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in October.

In a rather unusual move, the six commissioners signed a memorandum raising a number of issues against Chairman Andres Bautista which, they said, constituted a “failure of leadership.” Chairman Bautista who was in Japan last week said he found it ironic that the six commissioners had come to this conclusion after the May 9 election “which most believe was the fastest, most organized, and successful elections in Philippine history.”

Of the many issues raised in the memorandum, one appeared to be simply on a procedural matter – the lack of an advance agenda for en banc meetings which the commissioners could study and prepare for. More substantial was the charge of delay in the payment for many teachers who had served in the last election, which Bautista denied, saying 99.8 percent of the poll workers had already been paid.

The chairman was also accused of making unilateral announcements on matters that must be decided by the Comelec as a whole, such as postponement of the barangay and SK elections. He had also allegedly signed memorandums of agreement with certain malls planned to be used as voting centers; the Comelec en banc rejected the plan just days before the election, but because of the signed agreements, one mall is charging the Comelec over a million pesos.

When the chairman and the six members of the commission finally get to meet and settle their differences, they will also have to act on several poll protests along with a charge of vote manipulation in the quick count of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, raised by party-list organization Consla. Investigations need to be undertaken.

Chairman Bautista, who is back from Japan, said he is ready to answer all issues raised against him. It is indeed unusual that any misunderstanding should reach such a point where all six Comelec commissioners agree on a memorandum critical of their chairman. They have just accomplished a great job in holding the May 9 presidential election and must now work double-time for the barangay and SK elections just four months from now.

Surely they can settle all their differences and decide on all pending issues with utmost capability in the national interest, as befits the respected independent constitutional body that is the Commission on Elections.