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A Malacañang official confirmed on Wednesday that Elections Commissioner Augusto “Gus” Lagman will no longer be reappointed to the Comelec, saying it was a mutual decision between the administration and the poll official.
“In consultation with Commissioner Lagman, we decided, instead of having him go through that whole, sometimes painful, process only to be rejected... We mutually agreed that we would just not reappoint him,” Secretary Ricky Carandang said at a press briefing.
Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO), said he had talked with House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II who told him that Lagman would be rejected by the Commission on Appointments.
Lagman was appointed to his post almost a year ago. But since then, his nomination has yet to be tackled by the bicameral body, whose duty is to confirm or reject the appointments made by the President.
Carandang confirmed that the matter was in connection with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s differences with Lagman.
“It had to do with the case where Gus Lagman used to be involved with Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections) where they had a difference of opinion with Sen. Enrile. I think that’s the reason why there was some issue there with regard to Gus Lagman. So it had to do with issues that occurred way before Gus was appointed to [the] Comelec,” he said. Courting Enrile vote?
On Tuesday, Lagman told GMA News Online that Enrile intends to block his appointment for his role in Namfrel 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. Enrile has yet to comment on the matter.
Carandang, however, quickly stressed that the decision [not to reappoint Lagman] was not made to secure the vote of Enrile in the ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. The Senate President presides over the proceedings.
“[It has] nothing to do with that and I don’t believe that Commissioner Lagman said that. In fact, the decision was a mutual decision between the administration and Lagman,” he said.
He added it was Lagman who said that he did not want to go through the process and it would be more productive to just move on and appoint someone else.
Carandang said the issue has been settled and there is no need to talk to Enrile.
“No, I think the issue has been settled. We got word that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to confirm him so a decision was made to just nominate someone else,” he said. Opposition to PCOS machines
Carandang further said that Lagman’s opposition to the use of Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in next year’s elections was not a factor in his non-reappointment.
“I don’t know kung issue yun. Yes, he seemed to disagree but I think a body like [the] Comelec is better served when there is diverse opinion. Just because you have a difference of opinion with one or two other commissioners does not mean that you shouldn’t be appointed,” he said.
“I think a healthy debate in a commission like [the] Comelec will bring out different perspective and would lead to more informed decisions by the Commission. It is not a requirement that you agree 100 percent on all of the things,” he added. New post for Lagman?
Carandang said President Benigno Aquino III already has some names being considered to replace Lagman.
Asked if it was already a shortlist, Carandang said he does not know. “I’m sure given the importance of the position, we will be able to nominate someone in a short amount of time.”
However, there is a possibility that Lagman would be appointed to another government post.
“That’s possible. There was no issue naman of Commissioner Lagman’s competence as far as I’m aware. That is always a possibility,” Carandang said.
Asked why some Cabinet members were reappointed while Lagman was not, he said a Cabinet post is different from a Comelec post.
“Wth the Cabinet, the President has to have the people that he is comfortable with, who have been tested. Iba e. These people would be working directly with the President everyday on many sensitive issues. It is not the same as constitutional bodies,” he said.
At least five Cabinet secretaries have yet to be confirmed by the CA, with most of them already occupying their posts for the past two years or since Aquino 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. — RSJ, GMA News