There’s life after Comelec 

“I can teach. Go back to the farm and raise chickens,” outgoing Election Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said.  

  “Having a farm would require me to take a walk daily. I must check the plants, di ba? That would be a good exercise,” she continued while waiting for her chocolates to be wrapped.  

In a few hours, Guanzon, presiding chair of the Commission on Election’s (Comelec) First Division, would announce her vote to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.  from running for president in the May 9 elections. She would make the announcement ahead of the ponente (writer of the decision), Commissioner Aimee Ferolino. It was an unexpected move and a first in Comelec’s recent history.    

Covid19 infections delayed the promulgation of the Resolution deciding if there was merit to the petitions that Marcos’ failure to pay taxes from 1982 to 1985 constituted moral turpitude, a ground for perpetual disqualification from holding public office.  

After making public her Yes vote, Guanzon alleged that a senator influenced Ferolino’s “undue delay.” Ferolino countered it was not “undue delay” but “undue rush” on the side of Guanzon.  

Whatever the First Division decides, either petitioner or respondent can appeal to the Comelec en banc, and the Supreme Court. 

For now, Guanzon is just a typical shopper at the Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City. She had been to a bookstore and then to this boutique that sold luxury chocolate from the Middle East. 

While waiting for her purchases to be wrapped, which was taking some time, she joked, “Mas madali na yata bumili ng baril kaysa chocolate.” (It’s easier to buy guns than chocolate.) The salesclerks smiled. 

Pistol-packing mayor 

Guanzon was 28 when President Corazon “Cory” Aquino appointed her in 1986 officer-in-charge mayor of Cadiz City in Negros Occidental.  Her mother, lawyer Elvira Villena Guanzon, had been the city vice-mayor. Her father is retired Judge Sixto Guanzon of the landed Guanzon clan. 

Confronting the  “guns, goons and gold” reality of Philippine politics came with the territory. 

Guanzon was at the city hall when a politician “visited” while the warlord’s armed bodyguards camped across city hall. Nervous employees scampered to safety. The mayor tucked a gun in her waist and gave her mother a hand grenade “just in case.”    

No violent confrontation took place, thanks to cooler minds. And the older Guanzon had no reason to lob a grenade.  

But the story about Mayor Guanzon’s passion for guns and her spending time at the firing range, made her known as a local gun moll. The media even called her the “pistol packing mayor of Cadiz.” 

On Feb. 2, 2022, Guanzon will finish her seven-year term as Comelec commissioner. She had been a corporate lawyer, a law professor and author of law books. She had also worked as the chief of staff of the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a fellow Ilongga and her “idol.”   

Before her appointment to the Comelec in 2015, Guanzon was appointed member of the Commission on Audit (COA) in 2013.  

She has had a long, honorable career in law and government. But, as she finishes her term at the Comelec, Guanzon admitted, “Hindi maganda ang ending,” (Not a nice ending).  

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