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Aquino’s sister not meddling in Comelec appointments–Palace

MANILA: Malacanang has dismissed as “purely speculative” talk going around that one of President Aquino’s sisters is meddling in the appointment of new commissioners for the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma on Tuesday said he had “no information” about rumors the unnamed presidential sibling was pushing for the appointment of Winston Ginez, chair of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, as either Comelec chair or commissioner.

“It’s purely speculative… we do our best not to be distracted,” Coloma told the Inquirer.

For her part, Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said they “generally do not comment on, as you say, nasty talk.”

The Palace has not said when President Aquino would name the successors to Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. and Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph, who all retired recently.

The replacements for former Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Francisco Duque III and resigned Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima have also to be appointed.

Asked about the delay in the appointments, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said “the appointments are undergoing due diligence and proper screening.”

He told a Palace press briefing earlier that the Comelec and the CSC, being constitutional bodies, could function even without chairpersons.

“We’re looking for the right people for the job, so we’ll ask for some patience on the part of the public,” Lacierda said.

On the vacant Comelec positions, Coloma said “the vetting process is still ongoing as this involves the appointment of, among others, a chairperson of an independent constitutional body.”

The Office of the President, he said, was exercising due diligence in making sure the appointees possessed the necessary qualifications and would meet the people’s expectations in terms of integrity and competence.

Coloma, also the head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), and said to be one of those being considered for CSC chair, said he would not mind being transferred to another government office.

In an interview, he said he was “leaving it to the President to put me where I could best serve the government and the country.”

Joel Villanueva, director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, has been mentioned as the next PCOO chief, replacing Coloma.

Like Coloma, Villanueva said it was all right if he was moved to another post, noting that he served “at the pleasure of the President.”

“It’s already an honor to be a part of that (short list). It means the President’s trust and confidence in me is there, di ba?”

Earlier, Valte said Aquino wanted to “make sure the persons who will fill the vacancies are well-suited for the posts.”

She did not name those on the short list for the positions, but said that “should there be a decision, we’ll announce it at the soonest.”

Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) alumni, meanwhile, have urged President Aquino to name a new full-time PNP chief.

Tomas Rentoy III, chair of the PNPA Alumni Association, said “this is the only way to fix the confused chain of command in the PNP and avoid a repeat of the Mamasapano massacre.”

Several PNPA alumni were among the 44 Special Action Force commandos killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25, in a clash with Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters rebels, as well as other groups.

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