COMMISSION on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista said Thursday he has met with the newly appointed Commissioner Sheriff Abas, whose relative obscurity has sparked speculation that he was named to the post as a political accommodation to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
In an interview with radio dwIZ, Bautista said Abas asked for time to wind up his work at the Civil Service Commission’s Cotabao office.
“His appointment was as sudden as my appointment. So he still has to transition as he has responsibilities as CSC regional director,” Bautista said.
Bautista also addressed questions on his lack of experience in management and election law raised by former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod.
“My track record speaks for itself. I have worked for the Kuok Group for four years. I have served as dean of the Far Eastern University School of Law, and head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government. So I think I have a little management background,” Bautista said.
“I have also been teaching political law since 1991, although my expertise is constitutional law,” he added.
Bautista also parried accusations that he failed his psychological exam.
“You know my reaction to that is two words: that’s crazy,” he said.
More than a week after President Benigno Aquino III signed the appointment papers of the new commissioners, the Comelec has yet to receive Abas’ curriculum vitae, the spokesman of the poll agency said.
“Trying to get one from him too. As soon as I get a copy, I’ll pass it on,” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez in a text message to journalists.
Jimenez said, however, that Abas finally showed up at the Comelec late Wedensday and stayed for only 30 minutes before leaving.
He said Abas met with some Comelec directors for a short briefing.
Abas also went to the Comelec office at 9:32 a.m. on Thursday, but left exactly 20 minutes later, Comelec staff said.
On Tuesday, the Muslim Bar Association of the Philippines (MBAP) claimed that Abas was a close relative of Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.
Sultan Firdausi Abbas, MBAP president, said several competent Muslims have been named to the Comelec in the past without being questioned because most of them were known to the public as effective public servants.
Of Abas, he said, “It appears he is unknown.”
Abbas added that “the little information” they had was that he was closely related to Iqbal.
MBAP’s Abbas said Abas’ appointment to the Comelec seemed like a strategy to secure victory for the MILF in the parliamentary race in the Bangsamoro.
In the House, lawmakers said Abas’ qualifications and background would soon be ascertained when he appears before the Commission on Appointments.
“We will determine if Abas is qualified,” said Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, head of the minority bloc’s contingent in the Commission on Appointments.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr., on the other hand, dismissed speculation that Abas was appointed to the Comelec to ensure victory for the MILF in the parliamentary race in the Bangsamoro region.
“Once Abas appears before the CA, all the information about him and his relationship to Iqbal will be known,” Barzaga, vice chairman of the House committee on electoral reforms and suffrage, said.
Iqbal on Thursday refused to comment on allegations that he and Abas were related.
Barzaga also chided the opposition for questioning the qualifications of the new Comelec commissioners even before they had a chance to prove themselves.
In a forum with Metro Manila lawmakers on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, Iqbal said the best person to ask was Abas himself, who would eventually answer the question before the Commission on Appointments.
“At this point, I won’t answer that,” Iqbal said when asked about the new Comelec commissioner.
In the same forum, Iqbal remained noncomittal on calls for the MILF to surrender its fighters who were involved in the killing of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano on Jan. 25.
“It’s not that simple, they have to go through a process,” Iqbal said.
Also on Thursday, Jimenez said the Comelec is not too keen on increasing the honoraria and allowances of 240,000 teachers would will volunteer as election inspectors in 2016, given the budget constraints.
Teachers Dignity Coalition national chairman Benjo Basas, which is pushing for an increase, said that his group will formalize their request for an honorarium of P10,000 if they get a dialogue with the Comelec commissioners.
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