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Sole techie Comelec commissioner on his way out, blames Enrile


Poll commissioner Augusto "Gus" Lagman on Tuesday said his stint at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has ended, having run into a formidable obstacle, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Lagman says Enrile intends to block his appointment for his role in Namfrel in the 1987 senatorial elections, 25 years ago this year. Lagman's departure would deprive the Comelec of its only computer-savvy commissioner as the poll body moves headlong into the digital age. Lagman was one of the few dissenting voices in the Comelec when it recently decided to retain the use of the much maligned PCOS machines used in the 2010 elections.
 
Lagman was appointed to his post almost a year ago. But since then, his nomination has yet to be tackled by the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA), whose duty is to confirm or reject the appointments made by the President.
 
When the CA goes on break, the President is required to submit the deferred nominations for reappointment. Congress went on break last March and will resume session in May.  
 
But in a phone interview with GMA News Online on Tuesday, Lagman said a Cabinet secretary already told him that President Benigno Aquino III will not nominate him again to the CA. He did not name the Cabinet official.
 
Lagman said the Palace made the decision after it learned that Enrile, who chairs the powerful appointments body, was against his appointment.
 
He said Enrile had a beef against him because he was an important member of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), which he said the senator thinks cheated him during the 1987 senatorial elections.  
 
"Nadaya daw siya noong 1987...nanalo naman siya actually, pero sabi niya nadagdagan daw ng two million votes ang bawat kandidato ni [former President] Cory [Aquino]. Pwede ka ba magdagdag ng two million votes na di makikita?  Isa pa ang official count Comelec hindi naman Namfrel, unofficial yung Namfrel," he said.
 
He likewise said that Enrile had hinted during a Senate inquiry that Lagman wouldn't have a chance passing the CA.
 
GMA News Online was still trying to reach Enrile for comment as of posting time.
 
"Nung malaman ng Malacañang yun nag-exert sila ng effort baka naman pwede maayos ang problem eh hindi yata nagkasundo. Talagang ire-reject ako. That's when nagdecide ang Malacañang na baka mas mabuti sa akin na hindi na lang ako ire-appoint," said Lagman. Chance to defend himself
 
Lagman said he respects the decision of the Palace but that he thinks he should have been given a chance to defend himself.
 
"Give me my day in court, I deserve that.  I-accuse niya, i-explain ko. Even at the risk of being rejected, I'm willing to take that risk," he said.
 
Still, Lagman said he has already accepted that he will no longer be able to remain in his post. He said he has already returned his service vehicle and is just finishing up his work in the commission.
 
"Happy naman ako sa mga nagawa ko roon [Comelec]," he said.
 
Lagman is known as the only IT expert among the poll commissioners. He was also a convenor of the Black and White Movement - a group that advocated for the resignation, impeachment, or ouster of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
 
His term as poll commissioner was supposed to end in 2018.
 
Meanwhile, at least five Cabinet secretaries have also yet to be confirmed by the CA, with most of them already occupying their posts for the past two years or since PNoy assumed the presidency. Among them are Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman. Commission on Appointments
 
The CA is composed of the Senate president as its head and 12 senators and 12 congressmen as its members. 
 
Its duty is to confirm or reject appointments made by the President of the Philippines: the heads of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, or officers of the Amed Forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, except those of the Ombudsman and Supreme Court justices.
 
The CA discusses and deliberates on nominations at the standing committee level and at the plenary session. 
 
Nominations or appointments may end up being confirmed, rejected or bypassed. — RSJ/HS, GMA News