Sunday, January 06, 2008

Senators: electoral reforms before politicking

By Efren L. Danao, Manila Times Senior Reporter

Senator Richard Gordon said Saturday that the nation should focus on electoral reforms before discussing potential contenders for the presidency in 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, on the other hand, said that focus should be on who would be appointed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Meanwhile, Sen. Loren Legarda said that talks about 2010 are premature and serve as distraction to the solution of pressing problems like the spiraling oil prices and poverty.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, said that the country should concentrate on electoral reforms to avoid electoral fraud in the upcoming August 8 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and eventually in the presidential elections in May 2010.

“If the country has to change, [the electoral system] has to be reformed. This will be a good test if Filipinos have already acquired the moral backbone. If not, we will be like Haiti or Kenya or Pakistan, if we ever allow a convicted highest official to govern again,” he said.

He added that these reforms should start with President Gloria Arroyo showing transparency in the selection of the next chairman and commissioners of the Comelec.

“If there is transparency, people will have less doubt about the appointees and in the Comelec,” added Gordon, who has been pushing for automated elections to eliminate fraud since 2000.

Three vacancies in the Comelec are to be filled up in February with the resignation of Chairman Benjamin Abalos, and the retirement of Commissioners Resureccion Borra and Florentino Tuason on February 2.

Pangilinan echoed Gordon’s sentiments on the significance of the Comelec appointments.

“Political parties and their leaders must focus on ensuring that the Comelec appointees to be appointed in a few weeks’ time are men and women with integrity and capacity. Without an independent and [corruption]-free Comelec, all this talk about 2010 is a waste of time,” he said.

He noted that the search committee had reported that 56 names were being considered for the Comelec positions.

“We urge the search committee to make public the list of these nominees and to invite the public to submit position papers for or against these nominees. The list should be made public before it is culled or shortlisted,” he said.

Meanwhile, Legarda said that while there is nothing wrong for political parties to “sound off” and prepare for 2010, they may prove to be more of a distraction to the nation already beset with pressing problems like poverty and the spiraling prices of oil products.

She said that the political landscape could still change before the 2010 elections, but the pressing problems are already here and now.

“Based on my experience in the past three elections, line-ups are usually formed just months ahead of the election so, the pronouncements we are hearing at present may be just to test the waters,” Legarda added.

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