Monday, January 17, 2011

How free is the President?

For outsiders like me the appointment of election lawyer Sixto (Boy) Brillantes as chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) came as a surprise. Mulling over what could have been the motivations for his appointment, I was forced to asked the question whether the president is really free (to appoint). Perhaps political realities like horse trading, cashing in on political debts, or making a "deposit" that would guarantee current or future interests, are singly or collectively at play? These are definitely not among the perks of the presidency but perhaps one of its curses.

If the president were really free to make an appointment why would he make one that is open to controversy, if is not expected to be so? Of the many who are qualified to take the post, why did he pick someone who is already in the mired world of election cases; and one who over decades and up until just before his appointment, served as counsel to numerous candidates and political parties.

Methinks what our elections need is credibility not controversy.

There are at least three individuals - none are election lawyers, but well versed on elections, which the civil society organizations have submitted to the president for the top Comelec post. Were none of them good enough for the president or whomever the president is indebted to? Obviously not. What really are the realities in the appointment process?

If the president were to wield the power of his office, logic dictates that he would appoint someone who is beyond reproach. His choice should bring pundits and citizens ordinaire like me to nod in agreement of his choice -- because it would reveal his wisdom and that of his counsels.

Being an election lawyer all his life, as chairman Brillantes said in a TV interview this evening, do you think it will be easy for him to suddenly distance himself (and his law office which bread and butter are election cases) from his clients? Do you think that politicians will suddenly sever links in deference to their former counsel who had taken the post of chair of the Comelec (before which perhaps some of their own cases or that of their peers' are still to be resolved)? It would be hard to believe that these will be the case.

I thank God that we are still a democracy -- or at least we believe that we are still in one. There still exists a number of venues to express opinions that are contrary to the decisions that our leaders have taken. We could appeal to the president himself, articulate our concern to the public through the media, go to the Commission on Appointments, or even through blogs like this.

We once sang with all our hearts, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." We still will, and in this case we add a line or two that goes, "it is best to keep that light shining and guard it against forces that would try to stamp it out."

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