Malacañang insisted yesterday on the legality of President Arroyo’s appointments of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioners Virgilio Garcillano and Manuel Barcelona, which had been questioned in a case filed before the Supreme Court (SC).
"In our view, no law was violated in the appointment of the two Comelec commissioners," Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.
Interviewed over the Radio Mindanao Network yesterday, Bunye said that the SC summons ordering Palace officials led by Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo to justify the appointments were just "procedural."
"Within the time frame allocated by the rule, the office of the Executive Secretary would reply (with the explanations required by the SC)," he said.
In an order issued last Friday, the SC asked Palace officials to comment within 10 days on the petition filed by lawyers Agripino Baybay III and Paulino Ungos III for a temporary restraining order that stops Garcillano and Barcelona from performing their duties.
The petitioners argued that the Feb. 7 ad interim appointments of the two commissioners were "unconstitutional and made obviously for partisan purposes."
While he insisted on the legality of the appointments, Bunye said the petitioners were entitled to question it before the proper forum.
"We are in a democracy. Everybody is free to do what is in accordance with the law. For as long as they follow the law, it’s fine with us," he said.
Earlier, Bunye expressed the readiness of Mrs. Arroyo to withdraw the appointments if it could be proved that the two officials had been involved in election-related shenanigans.
Among other things, the opposition had alleged that Garcillano was involved in the padding and shaving of votes — a scheme popularly known as "dagdag-bawas" — during the 2001 elections in Mindanao.
Garcillano, who denies the allegations, was Comelec director for Northern Mindanao until his retirement two years ago.