Commission on Elections chairman Sheriff Abas and Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Antonio Kho Jr. retired Wednesday, a little over three months before the May 9 synchronized national and local polls.
Abas thanked his colleagues and staff, whom he described as “among the best and the most dedicated public servants in the country.”
“It has been an honor to serve with you, our beloved employees,” Abas said.
Kho, who was appointed to the poll body by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018, said his stint “has been the most rewarding and enjoyable experience.”
Guanzon, appointed as Comelec commissioner by the late President Benigno Aquino III in 2015, said she will retire with a “grateful heart” because of the “unwavering support” of the men and women of Comelec.
“I retire with a grateful heart because I know that you have kept me in your prayers whenever there is a difficult time and whenever the Commission is undergoing some crisis,” she said.
Guazon, days before her retirement, figured in a public spat with fellow commissioner Aimee Ferolino-Ampoloquio, the assigned writer of the first division tasked to tackle the consolidated disqualification cases against presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Guanzon accused Ferolino-Ampoloquio of delaying the release of the decision deliberately.
Ferolino-Ampoloquio, along with the rest of the sitting commissioners, attended the retirement ceremony.
She expressed hope that her friendship with the outgoing Comelec officials will remain.
“I know that even if they are retired, they are just a phone call away. Right, Chair [Abas], Comm. Kho, Comm. Bing [Guanzon]?” Ferolino said.
“And I hope that the friendship that we have started will not end with you leaving the commission,” she added.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it was “inappropriate” to conduct a motu proprio – or on the chamber’s initiative – referral to the body’s Ethics committee the allegations of Guanzon against a thus far unidentified fellow senator.
Sotto said Guanzon already revealed the identity of the senator who allegedly interfered and caused the delay in the release of the poll body’s decision on the disqualification cases against Marcos.
“I said I will not make this public. I will wait for you [Guanzon] to make this public. Otherwise, if there is no evidence in my hands, I will just dismiss the insinuation as hearsay,” Sotto said.
“I have no direct personal knowledge of the accusation,” added Sotto.
Guanzon earlier revealed she had voted to disqualify Marcos since he had already been convicted for tax evasion, calling the former senator repeatedly in interviews as an “ex-convict.”
“Commissioner Ferolino (Ampoloquio), lacking in experience in practice of law, was nominated and strongly supported by at least one senator.
That’s already on record that she will not act like this if it’s not [for] that senator who will order her because they’re very close since they were both in Davao,” she said in an interview.
When asked about the identity of the senator, Guanzon said: “I will not name the senator here because his wife already knows. It’s enough for me that his wife already knows and there’s going to be a war in his household.”
“His [unnamed senator] wife is already angry at him. It’s already viral. So that’s his problem. Let us focus on Bongbong Marcos as a weak leader. Let’s focus on Bongbong Marcos’ moral turpitude,” Guanzon added.
Meanwhile, the alleged interference on the disqualification case against Marcos Jr. has to be addressed, a lawyers’ group said Wednesday.
According to Philippine Bar Association assistant corporate secretary Arnel Valeña, the Commission on Elections will not be accused of bias by doing so.
“There are allegations of outside-forces interference in that judicial process so I think this has to be addressed so whatever decision the Comelec comes up with will not be accused of being biased or baseless,” Valeña told CNN.
Valeña said Guanzon’s remarks had “definitely” affected the image of the poll body.