Manila Bulletin – Solon wants more independent Comelec

By Charissa Luci-Atienza | Manila Bulletin

Another party-list lawmaker is calling on Congress to take a second look at the country’s Omnibus Election Code to strengthen the independence of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Kalinga partylist Rep. Irene Gay Saulog said Section 55 of the Batasang Pambansa Blg. 881, the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, as amended, should be repealed, as it “tones down” the independence of Comelec.

Section 55 of the Omnibus Election Code states that the local government concerned shall provide a suitable place for the office of the provincial election supervisor and his staff and the election registrar and his staff.

“The role that the local government plays in the office space to be used by the provincial Comelec unit does not bode well in preserving the independence of Comelec. The very local executives that are involved in this process are the candidates in the electoral contests that Comelec is tasked to oversee. A relationship of dependence may possibly arise and place the Comelec at the receiving end of the local government’s power and control,” Saulog said.

Saulog filed House Bill No. 5498 to preserve Comelec’s integrity and independence by providing suitable office space for its field offices and with sufficient manpower complement.

“It is the intent of this measure to effect amendments in the Omnibus Election Code to remove the reliance of the local Comelec on the local government. These changes will safeguard its independence and effectively perform its functions,” she said.

Under HB 5498, the Comelec is tasked to provide an accessible and suitable place for its field officers and their staff, chargeable to its yearly appropriations.

The bill authorizes the provincial, city, and municipal election supervisors to engage contractual personnel in accordance with the civil service laws to perform administrative or clerical workers in accordance with the mandate of his or her office.

It also calls for the automatic creation of positions of election officers in newly-created cities, municipalities, and electoral districts.

HB 5498 provides that there shall be a corresponding number of election assistant positions at the ratio of one election assistant for every 20,000 registered voters.

The measure provides that the initial funding of the proposed Act shall be charged against the current appropriations of Comelec. Thereafter, the amount necessary for its continued implementation and operation shall be included in the General Appropriations Act.

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