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Catholic bishops want Arroyo to revamp Comelec en banc

July 9, 2007 9:47am
(Updated 1:08 p.m.) The influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday called for a change of leadership at the Commission on Elections as it noted the "continuing dominance" of political dynasties, dagdag-bawas, and poll violence.

In a press conference, the CBCP called for a "full revamp of the Comelec" and sought for the appointment of people with "unquestioned integrity and competence, especially in systems and management" to succeed Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos and the five other members of the commission en banc.

The selection of new Comelec officials is "going to be in the hands of the President and the Commission on Appointments ... and it is our collective responsibility to monitor closely the process of selection, appointment and confirmation. There should also be serious efforts to de-politicize and professionalize the bureaucracy," the CBCP said in a two-page pastoral statement read by its president Angel Lagdameo.

The CBCP's call came after the vote of the 85-bishop CBCP during their two-day plenary assembly.

This marked the first time that it sought an overhaul of the Comelec en banc, contrary to its previous pastoral statements that tackled electoral reforms.

While it did not name names, the CBCP said "those responsible for anomalies in the past elections" must be held accountable. "Good career people in the Comelec can be the catalyst for the renewal of the institution," it said.

Members of the Commission on Elections en banc can only be removed from office through impeachment or through their voluntary resignation. They serve at a fixed term of seven years.

President Arroyo opted not to name the seventh member to the en banc. Before the May 14 elections, MalacaƱang said she would need time to study the matter.

Last year, bishops expressed approval over the appointment of Commissioners Rene
Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer, and Romeo Brawner.

Although it called for a full revamp, Lagdameo said this time that, "at the present time we are satisfied with their (the three commissioners) performance."

Abalos as well as Commissioners Resurreccion Borra and Florentino Tuason Jr are set to retire next year.

As this developed, the CBCP scored the "continuing dominance" of few families or clans in the Philippine politics, saying that they are "keeping power and influence" to themselves. "We hope and pray that implementing norms to be approved to arrest the spread of this malaise."

Bishops were also "horrified" by the extent of violence during the campaign, noting that "particular attention" should be given to address warlordism and problems in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Church-backed Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and militant poll watchdog group Kontra-Daya had given the Comelec a failed grade for its handling of the May 14 election.

This time, however, the CBCP said the last elections "on the whole, despite deep flaws ... may be said to have been a qualified success with the results generally reflecting the popular will."

It noted that only five percent of the contested positions are being questioned.

It likewise recognized signs of "increased maturity" among voters because "sheer popularity/ celebrity status and huge media expenditures" did not necessarily provide some candidates with enough votes to clinch their desired seats.

They also said volunteer groups such as the PPCRV, National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa) worked more closely together to help ensure the sanctity of the vote. - GMANews.TV
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