MANILA, Philippines --- Lawyer Maria Bernadette V. Sardillo has declined her appointment as Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner, disappointing Chairman Sixto Brillantes.
“I learned that Atty. Beng Sardillo declined her appointment as Comelec commissioner. I am deeply disappointed and saddened by it,” Brillantes said on his twitter account @ChairBrillantes.
Yesterday, Malacañang officially announced Sardillo’s withdrawal.
This comes on the heels of controversies hounding lawyer Macabangkit Lanto, the other Comelec commissioner recently appointed by President Benigno S. Aquino III.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Sardillo wrote a letter addressed to the President withdrawing her application for personal reasons.
She said the letter was dated March 7 and the President was only able to read the letter on March 8. President Aquino was in Davao when the letter was sent to him. It was in Davao where President Aquino announced the appointments of Lanto and Sardillo.
Lanto and Sardillo replaced former Comelec commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco who retired last February 2 after completing their seven-year terms.
Sardillo’s letter to the President read: “Today, I am deeply grateful for having been considered as commissioner of the Commission on Elections. However, it is also with deep regret that I am withdrawing my application to the Commission. This decision was reached right after my consultation with my family who has prevailed upon me to remain in the private sector. Nevertheless, please be assured of my continued support of your administration.”
Valte said President Aquino has “accepted the withdrawal” of Sardillo’s application, noting that a family member of Sardillo has a prevailing health concern.
President Aquino had said that out of the three nominees, he has picked Lanto and Sardillo as new commissioners of the Comelec.
Valte also refused to confirm if the third nominee would possibly replace Sardillo at the Comelec.
The Palace official said concerns on the recent appointment of Lanto will be dealt with at the proper time.
Reports revealed that Lanto, former Lanao del Norte Rep. (2nd District), former Justice Undersecretary and former Philippine Ambassador to Egypt, was unseated in 1994 by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) for election fraud.
The Team PNoy defended Lanto’s appointment, saying it is not aimed at rigging the results of the midterm polls in May.
Team PNoy spokesman Miro Quimbo branded as “completely baseless and malicious” the insinuation that Lanto’s appointment is part of the administration’s cheating plan in May.
“Such accusations only betray the ignorance of their knowledge of the President’s personal history and conviction,” he said in a statement.
Despite criticisms on Lanto’s appointment, Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile is keeping an open mind.
Enrile, a senatorial candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance, said it is up to Lanto to prove his critics wrong. “He should be beholden to the people and not to the appointing authority. His job is to uphold the integrity, independence, and impartiality of the Comelec, and ensure that the upcoming midterm elections in May will be fair, honest, and credible,” Enrile said in a statement. (With reports from Charissa M. Luci and JC Bello Ruiz)