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The Commission on Elections is mandated to give life and meaning to the basic principle that sovereignty resides in the

people and all government authority emanates from them. It is an independent constitutional body created by a 1940 amendment to the 1935 Constitution. 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.

Before the creation of the Commission, supervision over the conduct of elections was vested in the Executive Bureau, an office under the Department of the Interior, and later directly vested in the Department itself. The close official relationship between the President and the Secretary of the Interior and the perceived compelling influence of the former over the latter bred suspicion that electoral exercises were manipulated to serve the political interest of the party to which they belonged.

The National Assembly was impelled to propose the creation by constitutional amendment of an independent Commission on Elections. The amendment was ratified by the Filipino people in a plebiscite on June 17, 1940 and approved on December 2, 1940. THE COMELEC AS GUARDIAN OF THE BALLOT Through the years, the Commission has managed to maintain its authority and independence in the conduct of elections. Actions and decisions of this body that appeared to strain the limits of its powers were, in most cases, sustained by the Supreme Court, thereby reinforcing its position as the constitutionally ordained guardian of the ballot.

In its latest decision upholding the Commission's assertion of authority, the high tribunal affirmed the exclusive character of its power to conduct the preliminary investigation and prosecution in cases involving election offenses(People vs. Honorable Enrique B. Inting, Judge, RTC, BR 38, Dumaguete City, et al, G.R. No. 88919, July 27, 1990).

Such decisions have attested to the Commission's sixty-one (61) years of service to Philippine democracy, to the strength of purpose and character and the vision of the men and women who have served it. REORGANIZATION The Commission on Elections had undergone several reorganizations:

On June 21, 1941, Commonwealth Act No. 657 was enacted reorganizing the Commission

on Elections as a constitutional body. There were 39 staff members including three Commissioners, namely: Pedro Concepcion, Chairman; Jose C. Abreu and Rufino Luna, members. The Chairman and Members of the Commission had a term of nine years each - a member being replaced every three years - except in the first Commission who were given nine, six and three year terms respectively. They could be removed from office only by impeachment and were provided with fixed salaries which could neither be increased nor diminished during their term of office. These were among the safeguards to ensure the integrity and independence of the Commission. On June 22, 1963, Congress approved Republic Act Nos. 3588 and 3808 enabling the Commission to reorganize and expand its structure and increase personnel down to the municipal level. Republic Act No. 3588 was passed in order to establish a permanent list of voters and a continuing system of registration of voters, in each city, municipality and municipal district by a non-partisan and qualified election registrar with the assistance of an election clerk. On the other hand, Republic Act No. 3808 authorized the Commission to reorganize its office "in order to promote maximum efficiency in carrying out its constitutional duty to ensure free, clean and orderly elections and administer and enforce effectively all laws relative to the conduct of elections". This law empowered the Commission to abolish or create department, divisions, sections, or units, redistribute functions and personnel, change salaries and allowances of its subordinate officials and employees and provide for adequate appropriation for maintenance and operation.

The 1973 Constitution enlarged the membership of the Commission from three to nine members but reduced their term of office from nine to seven years. It likewise enlarged the powers and functions of the Commission such as the grant of judicial power. Thus, the Comelec became a judicial tribunal while keeping its origin as an administrative entity.

First to serve in the Commission under the 1973 Constitution were Leonardo B. Perez as chairman, and Venancio S. Duque, Flores A. Bayot, Jose Mendoza, Fernando R. Veloso, Liningding M. Pangandaman, Venancio L. Yaneza and Casimiro R. Madarang, Jr. as Commissioners. Because of the increased membership and the enlarged powers and functions of the Commission under the 1973 Constitution, President Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 597

on December 3, 1974 authorizing the Comelec to undertake a reorganization of its various departments, divisions, sections, offices and other units. Implemented in 1979, the reorganization created two new offices, namely the Election and Barangay Affairs Department and the Electoral Contests Adjudication Department. Field operations were decentralized with the establishment of the offices of the Regional Election Directors.

The 1987 Constitution reduced the membership of the Commission from nine to seven but retained their term of seven years without reappointment. Of those first appointed, three members shall hold office for seven years, two members for five years and the last members for three years. They can be removed from office only by impeachment and are provided with salaries fixed by law which shall not be decreased during their term of office. On July 11, 1986, Ramon H. Felipe, Jr. was appointed as Chairman to serve under the 1987 Constitution with Leopoldo L. Africa, Haydee B. Yorac, Anacleto D. Badoy, Jr., Andres R. Flores, Dario C. Rama and Tomas V. dela Cruz, as Commissioners. 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 under Administrative Order No. 146.