Jose Melo, ex-Comelec chief who oversaw first PH computerized poll, dies

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Jose Armando R. Melo, the former chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) who presided over the first computerized elections in the country, has died at the age of 88.

Former SC justice and Comelec chair Jose A.R. Melo (Photo credit: headtopics.com)

According to The Manila Times, Melo had been confined for sometime at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center for an undisclosed illness.

Before his stint at the poll body, Melo served as Supreme Court (SC) justice for 10 years – from 1992 to 2002. In 2006, he headed the Melo Commission that investigated the extrajudicial and political killings which had targeted militant activists and members of the press.

In 2008, Melo was appointed by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as chairman of the Comelec to replace the agency’s controversial head, Benjamin Abalos.

As Comelec chief, Melo took charge of the country’s first automated elections in 2010. During this enormous undertaking, his skills – and patience – were put to the test when memory cards used in the counting machines supplied by contractor Smartmatic incurred technical problems just a few days before election day. The glitch was eventually resolved and the computerized elections proceeded as scheduled.

Perhaps traumatized by this experience, Melo formally retired from government service immediately after the elections in May 2010 to devote his time to his family, specifically to his grandchildren.

Born on May 30, 1932 in Manila, Jose A.R. Melo graduated at Sta. Ana Elementary School in 1946 and at Victorino Mapa High School in 1950. He obtained his law degree from the Manuel L. Quezon University in 1956 and passed the bar exams in 1956 with a rating of 85.5%.

While completing his Master of Laws from the University of Santo Tomas, he began his law practice as a staff member at the Diokno Law Office from 1957 to 1962. During the 1970s, he worked for the Office of the Solicitor General. In 1986, he was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Pres. Corazon Aquino.

He was appointed by Pres. Fidel Ramos to the SC on August 10, 1992. He retired from the High Tribunal after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 on May 30, 2002.

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