By MIKHA FLORES
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III named Thursday two new commissioners in the Commission on Elections that will oversee the nationwide elections in May.
The appointments of former Justice Undersecretary Macabangkit Lanto and election lawyer Maria Bernadette V. Sardillo bring to five the appointees of Aquino in the seven-member poll body. The other three are Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. and Commissioners Grace Padaca and Christian Robert Lim.
Brillantes’ wish to have at least one insider fill the two vacancies in the poll body was left unheeded; the two appointees are “outsiders” to Comelec.
The posts were vacated by Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco, who both retired last Feb. 2.
According to her curriculum vitae, Sardillo has been practicing election laws since 2007. She finished law at Ateneo de Manila University where she earned the Evelio Javier Gold Medal for Leadership Award. She was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 2001.
Lanto, according to Brillantes,was a consultant of Sen. Franklin Drilon, the campaign manager of the Team Pnoy senatorial slate, until his appointment to the Comelec.
Lanto also served as justice undersecretary from 2004 to 2007, tourism undersecretary from 1996 to 1998 and ambassador to Egypt and Sudan from 1998 to 2001. He was also representative of Lanao del Sur’s second district from 1992 to 94.
Lanto finished law at the University of the Philippines in 1967 and has a Master of Arts degree from the New York University.
In a statement, Lanto promised to uphold Comelec’s independence as a constitutional body.
“I intend to reciprocate that trust with a firm commitment to join the current commissioners in upholding the impartiality, independence, and integrity of Comelec to ensure the holding of honest, fair and orderly elections in May this year,” he said.
By 2016 presidential elections, all seven members of Comelec will be Aquino appointees. Commissioners Elias Yusoph and LucenitoTagle—the two remaining appointees of former President and now Pampanga Congresswoman Gloria Arroyo—are set to retire in February 2015 along with Brillantes who is serving the unexpired term of former Chairman Jose Melo.
On the appointment of outsiders instead of insiders to the poll body, Brillantes said,“Hindi naman niya dapat ako pakinggan. Presidente naman yun. Siya ang may prerogative (He doesn’t need to listen to me. He’s the President. He has the prerogative).”
The other three Aquino appointees in Comelec are known allies of the president’s political party. Brillantes served as Aquino’s election lawyer in his 2010 presidential campaign. Before that, he served as lawyer for Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. in 1992, former President Joseph Estrada in 1998 and the late actor Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004. He has been practicing election laws since 1985.
Ma. Gracia Cielo “Grace” Padaca is a partymate of Aquino at the Liberal Party before she was appointed Commissioner. Padaca served as Isabela governor from 2004 to 2010. She lost to Faustino Dy III, a member of the Dy dynasty she once toppled in 2004.
Lim was part of the legal, anti-fraud and quick reaction team of the Aquino-(Mar) RoxasBantayBalota Group. He is now chair of Comelec’s Ad Hoc Campaign Finance Steering Committee, which oversees the implementation of campaign finance regulations, a first for Comelec.
Brillantes said this will be the first time that two Muslims—Yusoph and Lanto—will sit in the poll body at the same time.