Two heads of constitutional commissions—the Commission on Elections’ Sixto Brillantes Jr. and Commission on Audit’s Maria Gracia Pulido Tan— retired this week.
Their respective retirements, and what happens thereafter, have significant and far-reaching impact on the nation. We have just been too busy grieving the 44 policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao and being outraged at the government’s handling of the fallout to ponder what these new vacancies mean for us as a nation.
Brillantes, for instance, made alarming utterances when he candidly expressed his preference that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima be appointed by the President to take his place. Both Brillantes and De Lima were prominent election lawyers before serving in government. Worse, de Lima has time and again proved she was a rabid agent of the administration above everything else.
To this day, Brillantes has not been able to assuage doubts on the Comelec’s apparent fondness of Smartmatic, the company’s reputation, and the technical merit of its precinct count optical scan machines.
He left his agency with a lot more to answer for. In a last-minute deal, Brillantes led the commission in after approving yet another contract with Smartmatic, this time worth P268 million for the PCOS machines in preparation for the 2016 polls.
Pulido Tan for her part became a household name after her agency released its findings from a special audit conducted on lawmakers’ use of their Priority Development Assistance Funds, among others. She also led the COA’s opening up to citizen participation, under the Philippines’ commitment to Open Government Partnership.
The exiting COA head has not identified a preferred successor, but speculation is rife that the next appointee might be somebody who would be able to shield, in the coming years, the current administration from the effects of its decisions concerning public funds. We hope it would not be so.
We should all watch how the President decides on who would next lead these two commissions. Both appointees would outstay him in government and would be in a position to influence, and greatly, the nation’s affairs.
The next Comelec head would oversee the 2016 national and local elections—another contentious, tumultuous period that would test our good sense as voters and out vigilance as citizens.
The next COA leader would carry on the task of ensuring that government funds are spent as intended, and would enable the prosecution of officials who abuse the public trust. It’s a sensitive, if not dangerous, task when taken to heart.
This administration has already caused us much anger and disappointment. We hope that the names that would eventually surface are those of competent, independent people to show that “Tuwid na Daan” is not just some clever-sounding, feel-good, larger than life but hollow marketing ploy.
Worse, de Lima has time and again proved she is a rabid agent of the administration above everything else.