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New Comelec exec surprises, stuns Melo

Posted on: February 24, 2009

By Kristine L. Alave, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:20:00 02/04/2009

Filed Under: Government, Elections, Eleksyon 2010

MANILA, Philippines—There’s a new addition to the pool of election commissioners, and his boss appeared to be the last to know.

Commission on Elections Chair Jose Melo Tuesday said he was stunned by the appointment of Marawi City Prosecutor Elias Yusoph as the sixth commissioner, replacing Romeo Brawner who died of a heart attack in May 2008.

“I had no inkling,” Melo said of Yusoph’s appointment in a phone interview. “I don’t know him, but they said he was a fiscal.”

Melo had said that a sixth commissioner would be unnecessary as he or she would serve only two years. He said the Comelec could do its work unhampered even with only five commissioners.

Nevertheless, Melo welcomed Yusoph—the second commissioner from Lanao del Sur after Moslemen Macarambon—when he called on the Comelec chair.

Melo said Yusoph’s knowledge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) would help the Comelec in conducting elections in the region.

‘RP’s cheating capital’

Speaking later with reporters, Yusoph pledged to debunk the notion that Mindanao, particularly the ARMM, was the cheating capital of the country.

“I’ve been a prosecutor for 31 years. I have never compromised my office to sacrifice justice. That’s why I have the confidence of my people. I’m assuring the government that I can live up to the expectation that there will be credible and honest elections,” Yusoph said.

He said his appointment was backed by the Bishops-Ulama Council.

Yusoph said the ARMM was “the most misunderstood region.”

“With the help of my colleagues, we can introduce reforms in the ARMM,” he said.

Ex-Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, who hails from Bukidnon province and whose office Yusoph will now occupy, was accused of rigging the 2004 election results in the ARMM in favor of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Both he and the President have denied wrongdoing.

Palace concern for polls

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Ms Arroyo’s appointment of Yusoph to the Comelec would “belie any allegation that we’re not concerned about the 2010 elections.”

“The President is serious about completing the composition of the Comelec so that [it] can work full steam in ensuring honest, clean and free elections in 2010,” Remonde told reporters.

He said the appointment should put to rest the idea that the administration was bent on amending the 1987 Constitution to extend Ms Arroyo’s stay in power beyond June 30, 2010.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Yusoph was “highly recommended” by the movement of Christian bishops and Muslim ulama organized to promote a mutual understanding of faiths and religions for peace.

“The appointment will not only show the sincerity of the government in appointing a Muslim to this constitutional body, but will also infuse a new personality in the commission,” Ermita quoted the Bishops-Ulama Council as saying.

Before serving as prosecutor in Marawi, Yusoph was assigned to the Department of Justice as assistant city prosecutor from 1983 to 1987, and special prosecutor from 1980 to 1983.

He said he passed the bar in 1977.

Yusoph joins Melo and Commissioners Macarambon, Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer, Leonard Leonida and Lusinito Tagle at an especially crucial time.


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