THOUGH definitely not controversial than her last two appointees, Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s recently named Comelec commissioner, Romeo Brawner, has nonetheless generated mixed, if not, less enthusiastic reactions.
Brawner, who will replace the scandal-tainted Virgilio Garcillano, is the current presiding justice of the Court of Appeals, the first to have come from the Cordilleras, being a native of Kiangan, Ifugao. He is due to retire from the appellate court in September this year. A city and regional trial court judge in Baguio City for 20 years, Brawner was elevated to the CA as associate justice in 1995 before assuming as presiding justice in January this year.
Some see the appointment of a non-political personality as a welcome development. “As an initial step, it’s positive,” says Etta Rosales, Akbayan party-list representative who sits as vice chair of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms. “I understand he’s a man of integrity.”
“He is not a politician and comes from the judiciary. So far, we’ve found nothing derogatory about him,” comments Namfrel Chairman Jose Concepcion, though he says they’re still verifying Brawner’s character with their sources. But Concepcion adds that his appointment is a signal that the president is serious in really bringing major reforms.
Arroyo herself, in announcing Brawner’s appointment two days ago had stressed the need to pursue her government’s reform program amid the “political noises” hounding her.
Not everyone, however, is convinced.
“It’s more of a political move than about instituting reforms in the election body. It’s more a result of negotiation than consultation. Arroyo is taking the long and drawn out route of struggle in managing issues one at a time and negotiating pacts with groups (like the CBCP),” says Patrick Patiño of the Institute for Popular Democracy.
Electoral reform advocates share that view. “It’s so-so. He’s maybe a man with integrity but he’s inexperienced in elections. It’s definitely below electoral reform expectations,” says Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER).
Former Comelec chair Christian Monsod, for his part, thinks that the appointment should have been preceded by a transparent and broader search process. “I heard that he has integrity. But considering the Comelec, which is becoming more than legal work but mainly operational and technological, and given his age and background, he may not be the best choice,” he says.
Monsod also laments that Arroyo is “back to old ways of choosing people without proper consultation.” He says Brawner’s appointment is a “sure disappointment” to career officials of the Comelec.
One Comelec official thinks Brawner, 70, is too old for the poll body. “I don’t think we need old people in the Comelec. We need to modernize. A well-meaning president should know that without being told. If you want to change Comelec because it’s not acceptable to the people, she should not appoint people there who do not know anything about computers or information technology, about modernization. They would be hindrances to modernization,” he says.
He could be right. This early, Brawner is being quoted to say that the Comelec is not in crisis and that it is doing its work well.