Commission on Elections

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The Commission on Elections, or COMELEC, is an independent Constitutional Commission mandated to give life and meaning to the basic principle that "sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them." It was established as a constitutional body by virtue of Resolution No.73, or the 1940 amendment to the 1935 Constitution and since then, its membership was enlarged and its powers expanded by the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions. The Commission exercises not only administrative and quasi-judicial powers, but judicial power as well.



The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) was created by a 1940 amendment to the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines. Before COMELEC was created, supervision over the conduct of elections was made by the Executive Bureau, an office under the Department of Interior and later directly by the Department upon the abolition of the Executive Bureau.

Upon the approval of the 1940 Amendments, the administrative control of elections exercised by the Secretary of Interior was transferred to the COMELEC. The COMELEC was vested with the exclusive charge of enforcing all laws relative to elections and the power to decide all questions affective elections, except those involving the right to vote, which was left to final judicial determination.

Under Commonwealth Act No. 607, the COMELEC was organized with 39 staff members including the Chairman and the two Commissioners.

The 1973 Constitution of the Philippines enlarged the membership of the COMELEC from three to nine members. As in the 1935 Constitution, the Chairman and Commissioners have staggered terms of office and they may be removed from office only by impeachment.

Functions of COMELEC

The Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and functions:

  1. Enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of and elections, 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 official decided by trial courts of limited jurisdiction.
  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 purposes of ensuring free, orderly, honest, peaceful credible elections.
  5. Register, after sufficient publication, political parties, organizations, of coalitions which, in addition to other requirements, must present their platform or program of government; and accredit citizens arms of the Commission on Elections.
  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 elections 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 candidates.
  8. Recommend to the President the removal of any officer of 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.

Current Officials

The Commission on Elections is headed by a Chairperson and assisted by five commissioners:

  • Chairperson: Jose Armando R. Melo (25 March 2008 – 02 February 2015)
  • Commissioners:
    • Rene V. Sarmiento
    • Nicodemo T. Ferrer
    • Lucenito N. Tagle
    • Gregorio Larrazabal
    • Armando C. Velasco
    • Elias R. Yusoph

Previous Chairpersons of the COMELEC


    • Pedro Concepcion (01 September 1940 – 11 May 1941)

1941 - 1946

    • Jose Lopez Vito (13 May 1941 – 07 May 1947 )

1947 - 1950

    • Vicente de Vera (09 April 1947 – 10 April 1951)

1951 - 1958

    • Domingo Imperial (14 August 1951 -10 April 1958)

1958 - 1959

    • Jose P. Carag (19 May 1958 – 20 June 1959)


    • Gaudencio Garcia (12 May 1960 -20 June 1962)


    • Juan V. Borra (02 August 1962 – 20 June 1968)


    • Manuel Arranz (18 October 1968 – 02 June, 1969)


    • Jaime N. Ferrer (10 June 1969 – 28 May 1973)


    • Leonardo B. Perez (29 May 1973 – 17 May 1980)


    • Vicente M. Santiago Jr. (17 May 1980 – 17 May 1985)


    • Victorino A. Savellano (17 May 1984 - February 1986)


  • Chairman: Victorino A. Savellano (17 May 1984 - February 1986)
  • Commissioners:
    • Jaime Opinion
    • Froilan Bacungan
    • Ramon H. Felipe, Jr.
    • Quirino A. Marquinez
    • Mangontawar Guro
    • Mario D. Ortiz
    • Ruben C. Agpalo (appointed 31 January 1986)
    • Jaime C. Layosa (appointed 31 January1986)

1986 (AFTER EDSA REVOLUTION) - After the People Power Revolution in EDSA, Chairman Savellano and all Commissioners tendered their courtesy resignations which, except those of Commissioners Bacungan and Felipe, were accepted by President Corazon Aquino.


  • Chairman: Ramon H. Felipe , Jr. (11 July 1986 – 03 February 1988)
  • Commissioners:
    • Leopoldo L. Africa (14 July 1986 -
    • Haydee B. Yorac (15 July 1986 – Appointed) (First Woman Commissioner)
    • Anacleto D. Badoy, Jr. (16 July 1986 - Feb. 03 February 1988)
    • Andres R. Flores (17 July 1986 - Appointed)
    • Dario C. Rama (18 July 1986 - Appointed)
    • Tomas V. dela Cruz (11 December 1986 – 13 September 1987)

(The Chairman and Members of the Commission appointed under the 1986 Revolutionary Constitution had no fixed terms of office.)

1988 - 1989

    • Hilario G. Davide, Jr. (15 February1988 – 15 February 1995)


    • Haydee B. Yorac, Acting Chairman (07 December 1989 – 05 June 1991)

1991 - 1995

    • Christian S. Monsod (06 June 1991 – 15 February 1995)

1995 - 1998

    • Bernardo P. Pardo (17 February 1995 – 15 February 2002)


    • Luzviminda G. Tancangco Acting Chairman (08 October 1998 – 10 January 1999)

1999 - 2000

    • Harriet O. Demetriou, First Woman Chairman (11 January 1999 – 15 February 2002)


    • Alfredo L. Benipayo (19 February 2001 – 04 June 2002)

(Appointed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo after she accepted Demetriou's courtesy resignation after Edsa II. Benipayo's appointment, however, was rejected by the Commission on Appointment)

2002 - 2007

    • Benjamin S. Abalos (05 June 2002 – Resigned, 05 December 2007)


    • Resurreccion Z. Borra Acting Chairman (06 December 2007 – Retired, 02 February 2008)


    • Jose Armando R. Melo (25 March 2008 – 15 January 2011)

See also: COMELEC Officials

Issues and controversies

The Commission has always been vulnerable to issues regarding the sanctity of the ballot, possibilty of election frauds and anomalies, as well as the body's sovereignity. The issue regarding the 2004 national elections, most famously called as the “Hello Garci”, erupted when a wiretapped conversation where vote rigging in the elections was discussed by a woman presumed to be then presidential candidate President Arroyo and man presumed to be former COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. It made a serious impact on the credibility of the Commission and notwithstanding the allegations of the public, the Commission and President Arroyo became very careful on naming the said commissioner.

Not only did the commission and its officials became involved in issues regarding the vote, but also in issues regarding certain deals made by the government. The $329-million national broadband network project that was awarded to China's ZTE Corporation created a whirl in the public's view when former COMELEC Chairman Benjamin S. Abalos had been accused of being one of the person who brokered the controversial deal.

Since then, the commission has been given full focus on its search for its new roster of officials. On 13 March 2008, by the appointment of the President, the chairmanship of COMELEC was bestowed to the former chairperson of the Melo Commission (2006-2007), former Supreme Court Justice Jose Armando R. Melo. The Melo commission is responsible for the investigation of extra-judicial killings in the country, became famous for its fearless review and report about the political killings in our country. The report included a recommendation for the investigation of retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan for his alleged involvement in the killing of a human rights activist particularly in Oriental Mindoro in 2002.


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