PREPARATIONS for the May 9 elections will not be crippled by the recent vacancies in the Commission on Elections (Comelec), according to the poll body’s spokesman. 

“There will still be difficulties, but we’re not crippled,” Comelec Spokesman James B. Jimenez told reporters in a virtual press briefing on Thursday. 

“The preparations for the elections were established when we had a seven-member en banc. Now it is only a matter of implementing these plans,” he added. 

Mr. Jimenez said the election body still recognizes the urgency to appoint replacements for the chairman and two commissioners who retired on Feb. 3.

Under the Constitution, the independent poll body is led by a chairman and six commissioners, all of whom have a seven-year term without reappointment. The President has the authority to appoint, subject to approval by the Commission on Appointments. 

Presidential Spokesman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said on Monday that Mr. Duterte already has a shortlist of nominees for the Comelec positions. 

The election body’s new acting chairperson, Commissioner Socorro B. Inting, will hold her first en banc meeting on Feb. 9 to finalize committee assignments for the remaining members, Mr. Jimenez said. 

She was a member of the Comelec Second Division, which on Jan 17. favored Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. in a lawsuit seeking to bar his presidential run. 

The First Division has yet to release a majority ruling on other disqualification cases filed against the late dictator’s son. 

Former Commissioner Maria Rowena V. Guanzon, who was among those who just retired, earlier accused Commissioner Aimee P. Ferolino, who was assigned to write the ruling, of delaying the case — an allegation that the latter rejected, citing caseload.

Decisions issued by the two divisions are eventually appealed to the seven-member en banc. 

Ms. Guanzon, who revealed last week that she voted for the disqualification of Mr. Marcos, said on Tuesday that Ms. Ferolino was delaying the decision to invalidate her vote and Commissioner Marlon S. Casquejo’s. 

Mr. Casquejo was set to transfer from the Comelec First Division to the Second Division as presiding commissioner, but Mr. Jimenez said the move has yet to be officially declared. 

The election body spokesman said that reassignments will likely be declared during the Feb. 9 en banc meeting. 

Mr. Jimenez said that the election body must step up and prove that the elections will be credible despite disagreements between its officials. 

“This characterization of a crisis within the Comelec is by people from the outside. Inside it’s about doing the work and doing what’s expected of us,” he said.

“There would be fewer complications if the decisions at the division levels were resolved before the commissioners’ retirement,” Luie F. Guia, former Comelec commissioner told CNN Philippines on Thursday. — John Victor D. Ordoñez