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Poll watchdog worried over newly Duterte-nominated Comelec commissioner

Poll watchdog worried over newly Duterte-nominated Comelec commissioner

MANILA, Philippines – Poll watchdog Kontra Daya believes that the ties of the newly nominated Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner lawyer Michael Braganza Peloton with the Duterte administration would only worsen the credibility issues hounding the poll body, including the forthcoming 2022 elections.

A native of Davao, Peloton, before his nomination to the poll body, has served as a board member in the Board of Directors and Management of the Philippine Reclamation Authority in 2018 and was a technical assistant in the Presidential Management Staff of the Office of the President in 2017.

“It cannot be denied that he is based in Davao and has served the Duterte administration…[but] it’s not just him, it’s the independence of the commission that is being questioned. The credibility of the 2022 elections is in peril,” said University of the Philippines professor and Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao said in an interview.

“With the retirement of (Commissioner Rowena) Guanzon, along with two others, it will practically be a Duterte-controlled Comelec,” he added.

“Theoretically, there should be nothing wrong if those assigned have a track record of independence especially when it comes to dealing with the Duterte administration. But the situation right now is that the likes of Peloton who had past dealings with the government get appointed,” explained Arao.

Guanzon, along with Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas and Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr., are all set to retire in February 2022.  Guanzon was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III, while the rest of the commissioners were chosen by Mr. Duterte.

The Comelec on Monday welcomed Peloton as the newly nominated commissioner, filling in the vacancy left by the recent retirement of former Commissioner Luie Tito Guia.

Abas earlier said that Peloton’s vast experience in the field of law and information technology is seen to help Comelec better respond to the challenges in preparing for automated elections amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

But for Kontra Daya, it remains to be seen if Peloton’s “expertise” will be put to good use even if the Comelec claims that his IT background is an asset.

“Comelec has a credibility issue right now and until it gets rid of Smartmatic, its credibility will be questioned all the more,” Arao said as he challenged the commissioner-nominee “to be decisive and get rid of Smartmatic once and for all.”

Smartmatic has been the provider of the vote-counting machines (VCMs) in the Philippines’ automated elections since 2010.

The 2019 midterm elections were marred by various glitches, including malfunctioning VCMs and SD cards and a seven-hour delay in the release of election results to the transparency server, which triggered concerns about the integrity of the poll results.

President Duterte earlier urged the Comelec to get rid of technology provider Smartmatic, stressing that not a single vote should be “wasted” to preserve the integrity of automated elections.

Peloton is set to serve as a commissioner for seven years, ending on February 2, 2027. As a regular appointee, he will assume office after he successfully hurdles the confirmation proceedings before the Commission on Appointments.

Apart from Guanzon and Kho, the other commissioners at present are Marlon Casquejo and Socorro Inting.

Mr. Duterte has yet to name the successor to former Commissioner Al Parreño, who also retired in February after completing his seven-year term.

INQUIRER.net will get the side of  Commissioner Peloton on the Kontra Daya’s worries. [ac]