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Unity Statement: Let the Public Participate in the COMELEC Appointment

We, the academe, civil society organizations, youth groups, and sectoral leaders, call on President Rodrigo Duterte to make the appointment of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairperson and Commissioners open and transparent to ensure that the next officials are committed to maintaining the political independence of the electoral body and ensuring the integrity of our elections.

COMELEC Chairperson Sheriff Abas is retiring along with Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Antonio Kho, Jr. in February 2022 or less than three months before the May 2022 elections. These three (3) vacancies to be left by the outgoing members of the Commission are crucial, especially with the ongoing election preparations and the challenges that confront and confound us as we are holding elections under peculiar circumstances due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, the COMELEC plays a vital role in our democracy, being the principal government agency tasked by the Constitution to enforce and administer all laws and regulations concerning the conduct of elections. We cannot further underscore the importance of preserving fidelity to the constitutional design that COMELEC should be independent of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government to ensure the conduct of free, fair, and honest elections. The members of the COMELEC should be able to assert their autonomy and demonstrate that no political force or favor will be allowed to intervene in any manner in the performance of their mandates.

COMELEC is called to safeguard the electoral process, the very foundation of our democracy. In doing so, we hope that the Commission will constantly put a premium on engaging the election stakeholders and creating spaces for collaboration and transparency.

Given the significance of the upcoming elections and the invaluable role of the COMELEC, the public must be given a chance to participate in the vetting of the next COMELEC Chairperson and Commissioners. Furthermore, we call on the President of the Philippines to:

  1. Start anticipating the vacancies in the COMELEC and create a search and selection committee with representatives from various sectors of our society, including the election stakeholders, who would provide a shortlist of candidates for his consideration;

  2. Provide the public with the clear set of criteria to be used in the selection and appointment of the COMELEC Chairperson and Commissioners;

  3. Make the appointment process as open and transparent as possible for the general public to exercise their right to know the capacity and merit of those who will be considered and appointed; and

  4. Appoint individuals as COMELEC Chairperson and Commissioners based on integrity, proven competence, probity, and independence.

Inclusivity and transparency are the foundations of good governance. Public participation in the appointment process is an important mechanism to make us, the public, feel valued and empowered to participate in making decisions that affect our lives, the integrity of our government institutions, and our democracy.

As a non-partisan and pro-democracy coalition comprising more than 2,500 organizations, PARTICIPATE extends its support to the COMELEC and the national government in whatever ways necessary in pursuit of genuine democracy. We are always ready to help ensure the conduct of safe, free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections.