After four hours and 50 minutes of public hearing and lengthy expressions of support, the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) unanimously confirmed on Wednesday, September 7 the appointments of George Erwin M. Garcia as chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Karlo Alexei Bendigo Nograles as chairman of the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
Garcia will serve as Comelec chief until February 2, 2029 vice Saidamen Pangarungan while Nograles, son of former Speaker Prospero Nograles, will also serve until February 2, 2029 vice Alicia dela Rosa Bala.
Their confirmations were recommended by the CA constitutional commissions and offices committee chaired by Senator Cynthia A. Villar.
The confirmation of the two was made during the CA plenary session made at the Senate session hall presided by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Zubiri himself said he was honored to declare the confirmation of Garcia who is ‘’very cordial, very professional and brings a new class of leadership at the Comelec."
As head of the House of Representatives contingent to the Commission, CA Vice Chairman Ramon Guico Jr. said his contingent supports the confirmation of Garcia.
"Sui generis ...A class of his own," Senator Grace Poe said of Garcia, a law professor, who has a "vast experience in election laws."
"You are qualified, fit," Senator Francis Tolentino said of Garcia.
Garcia, according to Senator Joseph Victor ‘’JV’’ Ejercito, assistant CA Majority Floor Leader, could perhaps "be the best election lawyers in the country."
Other senators and congressmen who are CA members heaped their praises on both Garcia and Nograles.
Senator Christopher "Bong" Go described Nogales as a "true civil servant" while Ejercito said Nograles, a former Davao congressman, has been the "most qualified to hold positions in government" and "is the kind of man we need for the top CSC post."
A favorable recommendation to have Garcia confirmed followed the junking by the Villar committee of the opposition to his appointment by Leonor Barcelon-Whale.
Representative Rodante Marcoleta sought the understanding of Barcelon-Whale for the CA committee’s decision not to accept her letter-complaint because the CA is not the proper forum to render a contrary decision.
Marcoleta said the complaints lodged by the oppositor before the Regional Trial Court, Court of Tax Appeals and Court of Appeals and even by the Bureau of Internal Revenue had been dismissed.
The disbarment petition against Garcia was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
During the committee hearing, Tolentino asked Garcia if the poll body is open to include a new requirement in the certificate of candidacy (COC) that would incorporate a provision in Comelec Resolution No. 9366, prohibiting organizations accredited by the Comelec to advocate violence or unlawful means to achieve its goals.
Tolentino also asked Garcia if the Comelec is willing to remove a provision in the CSC that allows the poll body to disseminate personal data of individuals who filed their COCs.
"Can this be placed? For a candidate to declare that I will not support any organization that advocates violence or unlawful means to achieve its goals and to overthrow the government of the Philippines?" Tolentino asked.
Garcia told the committee that the commission is willing to include the proposal because it is what the law provides under Republic Act (RA) No. 6646 of the Electoral Reforms Law of 1987 and RA 9369 or the Automated Election Law.
For her part, Senator Imee R. Marcos manifested her support for the confirmation of Garcia.
"As a distinguished election lawyer and as the Comelec chairman, you are more than aware that the present set of election laws needs serious updates, the Omnibus Election Code which is derived from the year 1985... The extent that you are willing to commit time and manpower to help us in the Senate to recodify our election laws, may I count on your support? I have filed my own imperfect version but nevertheless an ambitious effort to have a new election code and I count on the chairman and the commission’s support,” Marcos said.
In response, Garcia vowed to review the voluminous pages of the proposed new version of the election code that the senator has submitted before the Comelec.