The Commission on Elections is replacing its longtime spokesman James Jimenez, just three days before the country holds its national elections.
In a memorandum announced Friday, Comelec chairman Saidamen Pangarungan appointed Law Department director John Rex Laudiangco as the new acting spokesperson “effective immediately.”
Laudiangco replaces Jimenez amid his alleged involvement in the bungled presidential and vice presidential debates, which is now a subject of a separate probe led by Commissioner Rey Bulay.
Bulay earlier recommended the relief of Jimenez from his media duties pending the investigation.
According to Comelec Commissioner George Garcia, the decision to replace Jimenez was at the “discretion” of Pangarungan.
“But the choice is a perfect one. Director Laudiangco is one of the best senior staffs of the Commission. Talented, promising and a bearer of truth,” Garcia said.
In a statement, Jimenez said he would continue to serve Comelec “as faithfully as I have these past 18 years.”
“I heartily congratulate Director John Rex Laudiangco on his designation as Spokesperson of the Commission and wish him all the best. For my part, I shall continue to serve as faithfully as I have these past 18 years, with due deference to the will and wisdom of the Commission,” he said.
Jimenez remains as director of the Comelec’s Education and Information Department.
Meanwhile, the Comelec said at least 355 vote-counting machines (VCM) were detected to have “minor problems” on Friday, just two days before the election day.
“These machines accounted for only a small percentage of around 106,000 VCMs that will be used in Monday’s elections,” Garcia said.
The problems were detected during the final testing and sealing of the VCMs.
Garcia said the defective machines were brought to the warehouse to be repaired, saying “almost 200 have been repaired. We hope we can test them until Saturday and fewer machines will encounter problems.”
He admitted that while the VCMs seemed old, they were still “effective and efficient.”
All VCMs and ballots have already been distributed nationwide, Garcia said.
He assured the public that all VCMs have been distributed and are ready for the May 9 election, adding the Comelec has contingency procedures in case there are VCM glitches.
Also, the Comelec on Friday said only trained teachers would handle VCMs during election day, after reports surfaced that some personnel in Cotabato City were replaced by untrained people.
Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Sayadi earlier told state media that she was puzzled how this happened and called on Comelec to sort out the matter, alleging that the untrained staff were not even voters there.
“This is something anomalous,” Sayadi said.
Garcia said they were already coordinating with authorities there and were addressing the problem.
VCM handlers, he noted, must have certification from the Department of Science and Technology.
Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the first order of Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao as Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge (OIC) is to ensure that all security preparations are in place so that the country will have peaceful, orderly, and honest elections.
“His (Danao) designation as PNP OIC will not affect the ongoing security preparations being implemented by the PNP as he will be able to provide good leadership and direction to the entire police force for them to be able to fulfill their peacekeeping role in this important time of our country’s history,” Año said in a statement.
He also said he is counting on Danao to continue and further intensify the PNP’s ongoing campaign against criminality and lawlessness.
At the same time, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana assured the public of peaceful and orderly elections as the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have coordinated their security preparations for the upcoming polls.
Around 40,000 personnel from the AFP are ready to ensure that the May 9 elections will be orderly and peaceful, he said.
“So far, generally it will be a very peaceful election,” Lorenzana said.