By Mario Casayuran
The powerful 25-man Commission on Appointments confirmed today the appointment of Sherif Nanimbayan Abas as chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, chairwoman of the CA constitutional commissions and offices committee, recommended Abas’ confirmation during the plenary session of the CA presided over by newly-installed Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III. The Senate President automatically becomes the CA chairman.
Villar asked her colleagues to confirm Abas’ appointment to safeguard the supreme voice of the Filipino people.
‘’It is essential that it (CA) ensures that the next chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) must be a person not just for his excellence but more importantly a person of honor and untainted integrity,’’ she said.
With this imprimatur from Villar, the CA confirmed the appointment of Abas as the CA chairman, vice Andres J. Bautista.
Abas, a career government official and a former law professor, thus became the first CA chairman to come from Mindanao; the youngest CA chairman at the of 39; the first Muslim to be the CA chief; and the first CA commissioner to be the CA chairman.
His term expires on Feb. 2, 2022, a few months before the May 2022 presidential elections.
Villar said Abas oversaw the recent successful barangay and Sangguinian Kabataan (SK) elections, described as very credible and peaceful with 96 percent of the election results known in 12 hours.
Newly-installed Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III presided over the CA plenary session that confirmed Abas’ confirmation.
Sotto replaced Senator Aquilino Pimentel III as Senate president last Monday. Pimentel was installed as a new CA member vice Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao.
Pimentel took over Pacquaio’s chairmanship of the CA environment and natural resources committee and membership in various committees.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Rep. Joel Mayo Almario seconded Villar’s motion seeking Abas’ confirmation.
Zubiri, who is defending on the Senate floor the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) bill, said he was impressed by Abas’ statement that he would inhibit himself when the BBL measure is submitted to a plebiscite to voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Abas is the nephew of Mohaquer Iqbal, a ranking official of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Zubiri said the CA’s confirmation of Abas’ appointment by President Duterte is a step leading to his reiteration for a long-lasting peace in troubled Mindanao.
‘’A lot is on Chairman Abas’ shoulders,’’ he said referring to shenanigans in the ARMM area. Queried by Bulletin on how he felt after his appointment was confirmed by the CA, Abas said: ‘’I am happy.’’
‘’I will not let the Commission down or the Filipino nation down,’’ he said.
On the Villar’s suggestion that the Comelec adopt a hybrid election which consists of ‘’manual voting, electronic transmission’’ of the election result, Abas told the CA committee that Comelec would be guided by the wisdom of Congress.
Abas stressed that the Comelec would study the Villar proposal carefully.
He, however, recalled that a hybrid election demonstration in Bacoor, Cavite in 2015 was a failure.
That demonstration was hit by technical glitches, he explained.
Abas assured the senators and congressmen who are CA members that the coming 2019 mid-term elections would be credible as the Comelec en banc and information technology (IT) department are busy putting in place reform measures.