Newly appointed Comelec commissioner backs out

Other appointee faces fraud accusations

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A newly named elections commissioner declined President Benigno Aquino III's appointment, while questions have been raised against another appointee to the poll body.

The Commission on Elections again found itself in need of a new commissioner after Malacanang announced Saturday that Aquino accepted election lawyer Bernadette Sardillo's withdrawal of her application.

"In a letter dated March 7, 2013, Atty. Bernadette Sardillo withdrew her application to the COMELEC, citing her family's wish for her to remain in the private sector," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte posted via Twitter Saturday.

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Commenting on the news, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. said he was is "deeply disappointed and saddened," adding that Sardillo "would have been a great addition to the Comelec," he said in his Twitter account.

Aquino announced Sardillo's appointment Thursday, along with that of former Justice Undersecratary Macabangkit Lanto.

Senators meanwhile noted that poll fraud allegations Lanto faced more than two decades ago may be raised against him before the Commission on Appointments (CA).

Lanto lost his seat as Lanao del Norte representative in 1994 after an electoral tribunal declared Mario Hisuler winner in the 1992 polls.

The newly named poll commissioner, however, said he was "not a beneficiary nor a perpetrator of election fraud in the 1992 elections."

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This, as he called the decision by the House Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) in 1994 "grossly unfair and unfortunate."

Lanto noted that he, then a neophyte lawyer, had fallen "victim to the machinations of corrupt HRET Technical Group personnel who connived with members of an extremely powerful clan in Lanao Del Norte whom I embarrassed with my election victory."

Brillantes, for his part, backed Lanto after noting that he had looked into the HRET ruling.

"[W]hile there may have been irregularities, there was no evidence linking the commissioner to the irregularities," reports quoted Brillantes as saying.

Lanto also said: "I have been in government service for more than 30 years, holding high and sensitive positions in the bureaucracy, and never was I ever involved in any case of fraud, corruption or misconduct."

Reports quoted senators as saying, however, that the CA may not even have time to hear Lanto's appointment as the 15th Congress nears its close.

The CA, which confirms appointment made by the President, is a joint body composed of 12 senators and 12 congressmen, with the Senate President as chairman.

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