Atty. Sixto Brillantes today assumes the chairmanship of the Commission on Elections. In appointing Brillantes, a seasoned election lawyer, President Aquino broke away from the tradition of appointing either a politician with patently partisan agenda or a judiciary person who does not have an electoral background. Atty. Brillantes is a private lawyer with an electoral background.
It would have been a choice easily acceptable to all stakeholders if his electoral background had been one of involvement in electoral reforms or watchdog role. However, the appointment is a little controversial precisely because his background is lawyering for candidates.
This is a double-edged sword that can be construed as either positive or negative in terms of credible, fair and free elections. His expertise in both the legal and practical electoral process makes him an ideal reform champion, if he chooses to go this route. The same factor, say the critics, makes him an ideal election operator (with all the bad connotations), if he so chooses.
The bottomline here seems to be Atty. Brillantes himself. As Comelec chair, he can decide to be either a hero or a villain–there’s no middle path unfortunately. Of course, as electoral reform stakeholders or as simply Filipino voters, we should give him his chance. He has the qualifications, he has the qualities, he has the public pledge to do good–I think it’s too early to make judgments.
My best wishes to Atty Brillantes, the fine-tuning of the automated election system, and the clean-up of the Commission on Elections. His is an experiment in good governance that needs all our support.