Seven people at the helm of Comelec will be in charge of ensuring that the country’s pivotal 2022 national elections will run smoothly. Who are they and what are their backgrounds?
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is the body tasked by the Constitution to enforce and administer all election laws and regulations.
The poll body is also tasked to ensure the conduct of free, fair and honest elections in the country.
As preparations for the 2022 elections are in full swing—seen recently in the week-long filing of certificate of candidacy and the extended voter registration—the Comelec is faced with challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, which concerns logistics and safety issues.
These challenges amid a high-strung environment became evident with tensions rising between members of the poll body as seen in Comelec’s now-deleted Facebook Live video streamed on Oct. 8, where chairman Sheriff Abas was heard scolding the staff of its education and information department who allegedly defied his orders to conduct a virtual press conference, and instead followed commissioner Rowena Guanzon’s instructions.
The STAR reported that Abas wanted to hold a virtual press conference but not have it livestreamed, which was different from what another official wanted. Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez reportedly suggested that the press conference be held in person as reporters were present at the filing of certificate of candidacy at the Sofitel tent in Pasay City on Oct. 8.
“Sabi ko virtual, bakit mas nakikinig pa kayo sa iba? G**o kayo ah,” Abas added. “Takot kayo kay Guanzon pero hindi kayo takot sa akin?”
After a few hours, Guanzon responded to Abas on Twitter, “Dinamay pa ako. Sino and g**o? Ako may UP Law and Harvard degree. Sino ang g**o?”
Both Guanzon and Abas, together with Antonio Kho Jr., will be ending their terms in February 2022. This will allow President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint three more commissioners to complete the seven-member commission, less than three months before the elections.
At present, six out of theseven commissioners have been appointed by Duterte. Guanzon was appointed by then President Noynoy Aquino in 2015. Abas, though appointed by Aquino in 2015, was named by President Duterte as chairman in 2017.
Here are the current Comelec officials who are in charge of the upcoming 2022 elections
Sheriff M. Abas
Sheriff M. Abas, who hails from Mindanao, was appointed to Comelec as commissioner in 2015 by Aquino. In 2017, he was appointed by Duterte to head the poll body.
With his appointment as Comelec chair, he broke several firsts: the first chairman from Mindanao, the first Muslim chair, and the first commissioner to become a chairman.
Abas was 38 years old when he was appointed to the poll body, making him the youngest individual to head Comelec.
During the 2016 elections, he led the packing and shipping committee where he oversaw the deployment of over 92,000 vote-counting machines, roughly 56 million ballots, and other election paraphernalia.
Abas also stood by the credibility of the 2019 mid-term elections, despite protests and technical glitches that the poll body faced.
Prior to being appointed to the Comelec, Abas was the acting assistant regional director of the Civil Service Commission in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for eight years.
Abas obtained his Philosophy degree from the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City in 1999 and his Law degree from the Ateneo de Davao University in 2004.
He is the nephew of Mohager Iqbal, the chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Together with Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Antonio Kho, Abas is set to retire on Feb. 2, 2022.
Ma. Rowena V. Guanzon
Before being appointed as a Comelec commissioner, Ma. Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon served as a commissioner of the Commission on Audit in 2013. Apart from this, she was also a litigation lawyer, writer, and a law professor.
She has a Master in Public Administration degree from Harvard University and an Economics degree from the University of the Philippines. Guanzon also made it to the Top 10 of her class in the University of the Philippines College of Law.
As an author who focuses on gender equality, she has written legal papers such as The Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004, Engendering the Philippine Judiciary, and The Davide Court: Its Contributions to Gender and Women’s Rights.
Her notable awards and recognitions include the American Field Service Mabuhay Award (2013), Outstanding Alumna in Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (University of the Philippines—2014), and the Outstanding Sillimanian Award (Silliman University—2015) Award.
Antonio T. Kho Jr.
Another Duterte appointee from Mindanao, Antonio T. Kho Jr. served as justice undersecretary under Vitaliano Aguirre II. During his DOJ stint, Kho headed the National Prosecution Service, the Office of the Legal Staff, the Technical Staff, the Bureau of Corrections, the Office of the Competition, and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.
Kho was also tasked to lead the task force that was supposed to reinvestigate the Priority Development Assistant Fund (PDAF) scam. He left the DOJ when Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra took over.
This poll body executive is a Lex Taleonis fraternity brother of President Duterte and Aguirre. Earlier this year, he applied to be a Supreme Court Justice but later dropped out.
Socorro B. Inting
Hailing from Davao City, Socorro B. Inting was appointed as commissioner in May 2018 by President Duterte. Before joining the commission, she was a Court of Appeals associate justice with 20 years of service in the Judiciary under her belt.
A graduate of Ateneo de Davao University Law, Inting served as a judge in Manila and Makati for a total of 12 years, a prosecutor for six years, and a public attorney for seven years.
Inting has other family members in the judiciary, including her younger brother Supreme Court Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting and Muntinlupa District office Public Attorney Niña Ma. Socorro.
Marlon S. Casquejo
Marlon S. Casquejo is a computer engineer, lawyer, and educator,
He took up Computer Science at the Ateneo de Davao University in 1990, and completed his bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering at the University of San Carlos in 1994. Six years later, he completed his Bachelors of Law at the Ateneo de Davao University.
Casquejo previously worked for the Comelec as City Election Officer of 3rd District Davao City, Provincial Election Supervisor of Davao Del Norte, as well as Assistant Regional Election Director and City Election Officer of 1st District Davao City.
Aimee Ferolino-Ampoloquio has over 26 years of electoral experience before she was appointed by President Duterte in December 2020 to replace former commissioner Al Parreño, who retired in February of the same year.
It was only in March 2021 when the Commission on Appointments confirmed Ampoloquio following several deferments due to reported discrepancies in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth found by the senate, and other election-related concerns.
Ampoloquio, who is a lawyer, first served in the Comelec in 1994 as an emergency laborer and from there, rose from the ranks and worked as an election assistant for 12 years, election officer for 10 years, and provincial election supervisor in Davao del Norte for two years.
She has served in the conduct of four presidential elections, four mid-term elections, several barangay and SK Elections, ARMM general registrations and other electoral exercises that the Comelec is mandated by law to implement and supervise.
Days before the 2013 mid-term elections, then as Davao City election officer, Ampoloquio angered teachers in Davao City after she allegedly called them “forgetful and stupid” in a closed-door meeting where she walked out. Her statement was made after teachers, who were serving as board of election inspectors, had a hard time operating the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. Comelec Region XI director Wilfred Jay Balisado had to apologize on behalf of Ampoloquio.
Ampoloquio will serve as commissioner until 2027.
Michael B. Peloton
Michael B. Peloton, who served as Duterte’s long-time lawyer, is a Davao-based legal practitioner with a background in information technology. He joined Comelec in 2020, replacing former Commissioner Luie Tito Guia who retired in February that year.
Prior to his appointment, Peloton served as a board member in the Board of Directors and Management of the Philippine Reclamation Authority in 2018 and as a technical assistant in the Presidential Management Staff of the Office of the President in 2017.