Commission on Elections (Philippines)

Commission on Elections
Komisyon sa Halalan

Official seal of the Commission on Elections
Abbreviation COMELEC
Motto Protecting the sanctity of the ballot since 1940
Predecessor Department of Interior
Formation August 22, 1940
Headquarters Palacio del Gobernador Building
Andres D. Bautista
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The Commission on Elections (Filipino: Komisyon sa Halalan), usually abbreviated as COMELEC,[1] is one of the three constitutional commissions of the Philippines. Its principal role is to enforce all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of elections in the Philippines.


According to Article IX-C, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, the Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and functions:[2]

  1. Enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum, and recall.
  2. Exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over all contests relating to the elections, returns, and qualifications of all elective regional, provincial, and city officials, and appellate jurisdiction over all contests involving elective municipal officials decided by trial courts of general jurisdiction, or involving elective barangay officials decided by trial courts of limited jurisdiction. Decisions, final orders, or rulings of the Commission on election contests involving elective municipal and barangay offices shall be final, executory, and not appealable.
  3. Decide, except those involving the right to vote, all questions affecting elections, including determination of the number and location of polling places, appointment of election officials and inspectors, and registration of voters.
  4. Deputize, with the concurrence of the President, law enforcement agencies and instrumentalities of the Government, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, for the exclusive purpose of ensuring free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections.
  5. Register, after sufficient publication, political parties, organizations, or coalitions which, in addition to other requirements, must present their platform or program of government; and accredit citizens’ arms of the Commission on Elections. Religious denominations and sects shall not be registered. Those which seek to achieve their goals through violence or unlawful means, or refuse to uphold and adhere to this Constitution, or which are supported by any foreign government shall likewise be refused registration. Financial contributions from foreign governments and their agencies to political parties, organizations, coalitions, or candidates related to elections constitute interference in national affairs, and, when accepted, shall be an additional ground for the cancellation of their registration with the Commission, in addition to other penalties that may be prescribed by law.
  6. File, upon a verified complaint, or on its own initiative, petitions in court for inclusion or exclusion of voters; investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute cases of violations of election laws, including acts or omissions constituting election frauds, offenses, and malpractices.
  7. Recommend to the Congress effective measures to minimize election spending, including limitation of places where propaganda materials shall be posted, and to prevent and penalize all forms of election frauds, offenses, malpractices, and nuisance candidacies.
  8. Recommend to the President the removal of any officer or employee it has deputized, or the imposition of any other disciplinary action, for violation or disregard of, or disobedience to its directive, order, or decision.
  9. Submit to the President and the Congress a comprehensive report on the conduct of each election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum, or recall.


The 1978 Commission was composed of [from left] Commissioners Flores A. Bayot, Venancio Duque, Chairman Leonardo Perez, Commissioners Domingo Pabalete and Vicente Santiago (not in the photo).


The Executive Bureau

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) was created by a 1940 amendment to the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines. Before the creation of the COMELEC, supervision over the conduct of elections was vested by law in the The Executive Bureau under the Department of Interior and, later directly by the same Department. The Secretary of Interior saw to it that local authorities performed the ministerial duties assigned to them by the Election Code. He decides administrative questions concerning elections. The courts, however, exercised exclusive and final jurisdiction over questions affecting the right to vote as well as contested elections of local elective officials. Elections contests involving members of the National Assembly were judged solely by an Electoral Commission composed of three justices of the Supreme Court and six members of the National Assembly.

Statutory commission

In view, however, of the close official ties between the President and the Secretary of Interior, there was always the danger of a partisan Secretary of the Interior exploiting his powers and influence to ensure the victory of his party at the polls. As a consequence, the Constitution was amended in 1940 to create an independent Commission on Elections, composed of a Chairman and two other members, to take over the functions of the Secretary of the Interior relative to the elections. but since the amendments could not be effective in time for the 1940 elections, the National Assembly, by Commonwealth Act No. 607, created a Commission on Elections, giving thereto the same powers which the Commission on Elections could have under the amended Constitution. The statutory Commission supervised the conduct of the December 10, 1940 local elections.


The constitutional amendment creating the Commission on Elections was finally approved on December 2, 1940. On June 21, 1941, Commonwealth Act No. 657 was enacted reorganizing the Commission on Elections as a constitutional entity. The members of the statutory Commission continued as members of the constitutional Commission.

The Chairman and Members of the Commission had a fixed term of nine years each – a member being replaced every three years except in the first Commission. They could be removed from office only by impeachment. They were provided with fixed salaries which could neither be increased nor diminished during their term of office. These were safeguards to ensure the independence of the Commission.

The administrative control of elections exercised by the Secretary of Interior was transferred to the Commission on Elections. The Commission was vested with the exclusive charge of enforcing and administering all laws relative to elections and power to decide all questions affecting elections, except those involving the right to vote, which were left to final judicial determination. The courts and electoral tribunals retained their original powers over election contests.

Membership expansion

The 1973 Constitution enlarged the membership of the Commission from three to nine members but reduced their term of office from nine years to seven years. As in the 1935 Constitution, the Chairman and Commissioners have staggered terms of office and could be removed from office only by impeachment.

First to serve in the Commission on Elections under the 1973 Constitution were former Senator Leonardo B. Perez, as Chairman, and Venacio S. Duque, Flores A. Bayot, Jose M. Mendoza, Fernando R. Veloso, Lininding Pangandaman, Venancio L. Yaneza and Casimiro R. Madarang, Jr. as Commissioners. Commissioner Pangandaman, the first Muslim Commissioner of the COMELEC, was appointed Ambassador by President Ferdinand Marcos even before the expiration of his term. His unexpired term was taken over by Commissioner Hashim R. Abubakar.

On May 17, 1980, Chairman Perez (who was later appointed Minister on Political Affairs by President Marcos) and Commissioners Duque and Bayot, after completing their seven-years term, retired. Commissioner Santiago succeeded Perez, and the following were appointed Commissioners: Domingo C. Pabalete; Victorino A. Savellano; Jaime C. Opinion; Noli Sagadraca; Romeo Firme: Luis Lardizabal and Ide C. Tillah. With Commissioner Lardizabal the membership of the Commission was thus increased to eight, one short of the full complement of nine.

Upon the retirement of Commissioners Firme, Tillah and Lardizabal on May 17, 1983 the Commission on Elections was composed of only five members. On March 21, 1983, two new members were appointed by President Marcos, namely: Froilan Bacungan and Ramon H. Felipe, Jr. With the retirement of Chairman Santiago and Commissioners Pabalete and Sagadraca on May 17, 1984, Savellano was appointed Chairman. Three new members were appointed on July 27, 1985, namely: Commissioners Quirino A. Marquinez, Mangontawar Guro and Mario D. Ortiz. On January 31, 1986 Commissioners Ruben C. Agpalo and Jaime Layosa were appointed to finally complete the required membership of nine.

After the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution

After the tumultuous February 7, 1986 snap elections and the People Power Revolution, Chairman Savellano and all the Commissioners of the COMELEC tendered their courtesy resignations which, except those of Commissioners Bacungan and Felipe, were accepted by President Corazon C. Aquino.

On April 11, 1986 Commissioner Felipe was appointed Acting Chairman. On July 23, 1986 he took his oath of office as permanent Chairman, together with Commissioners Leopoldo Africa, Haydee Yorac, Andres Flores, Anacleto Badoy, and Dario Rama as members of the "new" Commission on Elections. On February 15, 1988 Hilario G. Davide, Jr., was appointed Chairman with Alfredo E. Abueg, Jr., Haydee B. Yorac, Leopoldo L. Africa, Andres R. Flores, Dario C. Rama and Magdara B. Dimaampao as Commissioners. Commissioner Haydee B. Yorac was appointed as Acting Chairman when Hilario G. Davide, Jr. was appointed Chairman of the Presidential Fact Finding Commission in December 1989, pursuant to Administrative Order No. 146. On June 6, 1991 Christian Monsod was appointed by President Aquino as Chairman of the Commission to serve the unexpired term of Davide.

When Monsod retired on February 15, 1995 President Fidel V. Ramos appointed Court of Appeals Justice Bernardo Pardo as Chairman of the Commission. Pardo's term was cut short when he was appointed by President Joseph Estrada as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in October 1998. Commissioner Luzviminda Tancangco was appointed Acting Chairman of the Commission.

On January 11, 1999 President Estrada appointed Sandiganbayan Justice Harriet Demetriou as Chairman of the Commission. After the events of January 2001 that led to the ouster of President Estrada from power, Demetriou tendered her courtesy resignation which was accepted by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

On February 19, 2001 President Arroyo appointed Justice Alfredo Benipayo as Chairman of the Commission. However, the Commission on Appointments did not confirm his appointment due to opposition of some Commissioners led by Luzviminda Tancangco. On June 5, 2002 President Arroyo appointed Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman and former Mandaluyong City mayor Benjamin S. Abalos, Sr. to replace Benipayo. On January 26, 2008, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed former Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Melo, 77, to replace Chair Abalos.[3] The United Opposition (Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino) opposed Melo's appointment.[4] But Melo needs to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA), so Commissioner Romeo A. Brawner was appointed ad interim Acting Chairman on February 2, 2008 and will stay as Chairman until Melo is confirmed by the CA. On March 25, 2008, former Supreme Court justice Jose Melo was sworn in as new chairman of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) by acting Chair Romeo A. Brawner. Melo's ad interim appointment (Congress is not in session) was sent by the Malacañan to the Commission on Appointments.[5]

On May 29, 2008, Romeo A. Brawner died from a massive heart attack. Brawner, appointed to the COMELEC to replace the controversial Virgilio Garcillano, was supposed to end his term on February 2, 2011.[6] Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, on July 2, 2008, appointed former Acting Judge (Br. 74, RTC, Malabon) Leonardo Leonida and retired Justice of the Court of Appeals Lucenito Tagle as Commissioners of the Commission on Elections.[7][8] On November 7, 2008, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has appointed Armando Velasco, as new election commissioner, and reappointed bypassed Commissioners Leonardo L. Leonida and Lucenito N. Tagle.[9] Eduardo Ermita stated "Velasco replaced COMELEC commissioner and former Iligan City Judge Moslemen Macarambon, Jr. whose appointment had been bypassed several times by the Commission on Appointments (CA)."[10][11]

Impeachment complaint

On September 27, 2007, Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico filed a 69-page impeachment complaint (3:00 p.m.) against Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos, Sr. before the House of Representatives of the Philippines regarding the ZTE national broadband network (NBN) deal. It was endorsed by Representatives Teofisto Guingona III of Bukidnon and Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna (People First), and Zamboanga City Representative Ma. Isabelle Climaco. Affidavits of Romulo Neri and Jose de Venecia III supported the complaint.[12][13] On October 1, 2007, COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos, Sr. faced with an impending impeachment case resigned in a press conference. The Commission on Elections appointed Resurreccion Z. Borra as Acting Chairman. Mr. Abalos stated: "I'm resigning... effective immediately," Mr. Abalos told a news conference. "However, let not my detractors feast on this declaration. I'm not admitting guilt for any wrongdoing."[14] An impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections (COMELEC) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr was formally filed before the House of Representatives after Romulo Neri, former chief of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), accused Abalos of attempting to bribe him.


COMELEC, Palacio del Gobernador, Intramuros.

The Commission proper is the policy-making body composed of the Chairman and six Commissioners who must be natural-born citizens of the Philippines; at least thirty-five years of age at the time of their appointment; holders of a college degree, with a majority of them, including the Chairman, members of the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years; and must not have been a candidate for any elective position in the immediate preceding elections.[15] The Chairman and the Commissioners are appointed by the President, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments and hold office for seven years, without reappointment. The Chairman acts as the Presiding Officer and Chief Executive Officer of the Commission. Assisting the Commission are an executive director and deputies, 17 Regional Election Directors, Provincial Election Supervisors and Election Officers in cities and municipalities. COMELEC has more than 15,000 employees.

The Commissioners exercise quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial functions either en banc or in division. They also perform such other functions as may be assigned by the Commission or the Chairman.

Current members

Name Term began Term scheduled to end Position Appointed by
Andres D. Bautista April 28, 2015 February 2, 2022 Chairman Benigno Aquino III
Christian Robert S. Lim April 7, 2011 February 2, 2018 Commissioner
Al A. Parreño April 20, 2013 February 2, 2020
Luie Tito F. Guia April 20, 2013 February 2, 2020
Arthur D. Lim July 28, 2014 February 2, 2018
Maria Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon April 28, 2015 February 2, 2022
Sheriff M. Abas April 28, 2015 February 2, 2022

Issues and incidents

ZTE broadband contract controversy

In August 2007, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla delivered a privilege speech alleging that Abalos brokered for the national broadband network (NBN) project. Padilla claimed that Abalos met with officials of the Chinese firm ZTE Corp., which got the US $329 million contract for the broadband project.

Abalos denied brokering for the National Broadband Network project despite admitting he knows some officials in ZTE Corp. He admitted making four trips to China and playing golf there. He also admitted that ZTE officials, whom he says are his golf buddies, hosted and paid for the trips.

Jose de Venecia III, son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr, alleged that Abalos offered him US$10 million to withdraw his proposal on the NBN project. De Venecia is a majority shareholder of Amsterdam Holdings Inc., a company that submitted an unsolicited proposal on the NBN project. De Venecia also claimed that Abalos asked for money from the ZTE Corp. officials.

Hello Garci scandal

Main article: Hello Garci scandal

Abalos was mentioned in the "Hello Garci" tape, which refers to the alleged wiretapped conversations where vote rigging in the 2004 elections was discussed by, among others, a woman presumed to be President Arroyo and man presumed to be COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Mega Pacific

Abalos was the COMELEC chair when the election body approved a P1.3-billion contract with the Mega Pacific Consortium for the purchase of automated counting machines, which the Supreme Court in January 2004 declared as void because of "clear violation of law and jurisprudence" and "reckless disregard of COMELEC's own bidding rules and procedure."

On January 21, 2004, Pimentel filed criminal and administrative charges before the Ombudsman against Abalos and other commissioners in connection with the deal. Abalos described the charges as a "demolition job."

Pimentel accused Abalos and the other commissioners of committing an act of impropriety when they and their wives traveled to Seoul, South Korea to visit the plant of the maker of the counting machines a few months before the bidding for the contract started. Pimentel said he received information that the Korean company paid for the plane tickets and hotel accommodations for the trip.

However, Abalos claimed that the expenses for the trip were paid for out of the P1 million he won in a golf tournament in Wack Wack.

On September 27, 2006, the Ombudsman, in a resolution, absolved all respondents involved in the Mega Pacific controversy of all administrative and criminal liabilities "for lack of probable cause." It also reversed its June 28 resolution which contained factual findings that can be used by the House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against COMELEC Commissioner Resureccion Borra.

Website hacking


Just six weeks before the general day of 9 May 2016, the COMELEC website was hacked by a group called "Anonymous Philippines" on the night of 27 March 2016.[16] Anonymous Philippines asked the poll body to implement security on Precinct Count Optical Scanners (PCOS) — automated voting machines.[17] Another group calling itself LulzSec Pilipinas, claimed to have hacked COMELEC's website, and posted its database on their Facebook account shortly after Anonymous Philippines compromised COMELEC's website.[18][19] These exploits exposed voter data and the vulnerability of both voter registration data and the functionality of their website.[18] LulzSec posts 3 mirror links on their Facebook account that can be downloaded.[18] The incident was considered the biggest private leak data in the Philippine history and leaving millions of registered voters at risk.[20][21]

The sensitive information — includes full name, complete address, and passport number — of at least 55-70 million Filipino registered voters have been leaked publicly on a website called wehaveyourdata, which is allegedly created by hacker LulzSec Philippines.[22][23] Anyone who access this website can type their first, surname, and middle name of the compromised registered voters on the search bar provided and then the sensitive information will reveal.[24] The website is now taken down by NBI on 22 April.[25] COMELEC spokersperson James Jimenez warned the public not to use that website as this could be the phishing site.[26] On 21 April, COMELEC apologizes for privacy attacks made by the hackers.[27]


The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have been apprehended two suspected hackers within last two weeks of April 2016.[28]

See also


  1. home page of the COMELEC website accessed 28 January 2016 consistently uses the all upper case abbreviation of "COMELEC" rather than "Comelec"
  2. Article IX-C, Section 2, 1987 Constitution of the Philippines
  3. Marichu Villanueva Melo named new COMELEC chairman. (2008-01-26)
  4. Opposition questions Melo's appointment as poll chief. Video (2008-01-26)
  5. Melo sworn in as COMELEC chairman. (2008-03-25). Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  6. Brawner's death leaves 3 vacancies in Comelec-spokesman –, Philippine News for Filipinos Archived June 1, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.. (2008-05-29) Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  7. 2 Comelec commissioners named Archived October 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.. (2010-06-09). Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  8., Arroyo names 2 new Comelec commissioners – report. (2008-07-02). Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  9. New election commissioner named Archived November 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.. (2008-11-07) Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  10. New Comelec commissioner named; Macarambon out?. (2008-11-08). Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  11. New poll commissioner vows changes Archived November 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.. (2008-11-09) Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  12. Impeachment raps filed vs Abalos at House by Iloilo vice gov Archived October 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  13. Impeachment raps filed vs Abalos over ZTE controversy. (2007-09-27). Retrieved on 2011-12-16.
  14. WSJ, Philippine Voting Chief Quits Amid Bribe Queries
  15. Article IX-C, Section 1, 1987 Constitution of the Philippines
  16. "Comelec website hacked a month before polls". Rappler. 27 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  17. "LOOK: Comelec website hacked". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 28 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  18. 1 2 3 "Comelec data leaked by hackers". Rappler. 28 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  19. "Anonymous PH hacks Comelec website". CNN Philippines. 29 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  20. "Experts fear identity theft, scams due to Comelec leak". 1 April 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  21. "'COMELEAKS' Lawmakers: Voter database breach compromises May 9 elections; PNP joins probe". Interaksyon. 22 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  22. "Stolen Comelec data 'ripe for identity theft'". ABS-CBN News. 21 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  23. "Website claims: Registered voters' sensitive data easily searchable". CNN Philippines. 22 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  24. "NBI: Comelec site hacker did it for bragging rights". Manila Bulletin. 22 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  25. "Searchable website with hacked data taken down – Comelec". CNN Philippines. 22 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  26. "Data breach: Website uploads voter info, Comelec downplays leak". ABS-CBN News. 21 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  27. "Comelec apologizes to public as new website leaks voters data". 21 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  28. "LulzSec Philippines Member Arrested for the COMELEC Hack".
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