Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos, Jr. has resigned. Or, did he? Comelec insists that he did–spokesman James Jimenez cited the en banc meeting last Tuesday, October 2, where Commissioner Resurreccion Borra was appointed Comelec officer-in-charge. The problem, some reporters say, is that there is no official record of the resignation that was made public. There is as yet no resignation letter, either to the President (as appointing officer) or to the Comelec.
Solicitor-General Apostol’s statement that chairman Abalos is on a terminal leave is intriguing. I think the Comelec should show the formal letter of resignation and its resolution to end the speculation.
Whatever, the Abalos resignation signals an opening of a window of opportunity for both the Comelec and OIC Borra. At the least, relations can be repaired with civil society stakeholders and the voting public who have distanced themselves from the Comelec during the past three years. What is more important is that it opens the door for Comelec to recognize the damage done to the institution and start making the necessary repairs.
It also presents a window of opportunity for the president to mitigate her political crisis, leave an important legacy of good governance, and mend the rents in the democracy fabric by appointing credible, competent, and independent people to the four vacant Comelec seats, including the Chairman, by February 2008.
Basically, the Comelec interim management may want to work with electoral reform stakeholders in crafting electoral reforms necessary after the problems of 2004 and 2007 elections. The postponed Election Summit is a good step in this direction. In fact, civil society plans to push through its own summit this November precisely to address these questions, particularly in the light of the forthcoming modernization of the electoral system for the 2010 elections.
One good suggestion that has been circulating among civil society stakeholders is the immediate transfer of the modernization program to one of the newer commissioners who will still be here by the 2010 elections. This to ensure the continuity of the project and assure the early familiarization with the rather complex and daunting mix of technology, law, management, and public relations.
Another good suggestion I am hearing is the postponement of major decisions, such the technology choice, bidding requirements, and choosing technology supplier(s) after the new chairman and commissioners (who will be in the majority) have been in office for sometime. The Advisory Council for modernization had recently advised the Comelec to de-link the decision to automate the ARMM and the 2010 elections, and suggested two separate timelines. This, logically, will give anough time for everybody who needed to be consulted to say their piece–including the new CICT chairman and Advisory Council chairman Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua.
The time from now until February 2, 2008 retirement of Commissioners Borra and Florentino Tuason should be well spent on transition to the new Comelec. A really new Comelec!