EMBATTLED COMELEC Chairman Juan Andres Bautista.
MANILA — Six commissioners of of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) have asked Chairman Juan Andres Bautista to take a leave of absence or resign, amidst controversies surrounding him including an impeachment compliant filed against him and duly endorsed before the House of Representatives.
Bautista immediately responded to the call, saying he is considering his options and the Comelec commissioners will be the first to know his decision even as he stood pat on his statements that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing.
“The undersigned Comelec Commissioners, having at heart the best interest of the service, and motivated by a deep sense of duty to our people, are constrained to come out in the open to strongly and urgently urge Chair J. Andres D. Bautista to go on Leave of Absence for such period as may be necessary or Resign for his own sake, for the sake of his career, and most importantly, for the sake of his family particularly his four innocent children,” said in a statement signed by Commissioners Christian Robert Lim, Al Parreño, Luie Tito Guia, Arthur Lim, Ma. Rowena Amelia Guanzon and Sheriff Abas.
The poll commissioners believe that Bautista can longer function as head of the poll body.
“With all due respect, it is our consensus that Chair Bautista can no longer effectively lead the Commission,” said the statement which was distributed at the press conference held in Quezon City.
“The time for him to let go has come,” the Comelec Commissioners added.
They noted that Bautista’s failure to attend Wednesday’s hearing at the House
of Representatives is also a proof that their Chairman should take their advice.
“Proof that he (Bautista) needs to devote all his time to his defense and family was when he was absent in yesterday’s hearing before the House of Committee on Appropriations as he had to bring his four children to a guidance counselor. The Commission was threatened with a one-peso budget; luckily the Commissioners present were able to convince the Committee to reset the hearing to this morning 24 August 2017,” the statement said. Bautista appeared before the House in that rescheduled hearing, however.
“In our view, while due process of law will take a normal course, Chair Bautista’s defense will not only be spirited but arduous, to say the least. He will need to devote all his time, energy and effort,” they added.
The top officials of the poll body noted that Bautista also failed to inform them about his course of action he would take.
“Unfortunately, Chair Bautista has not made good on his promise that he would inform us soonest in his course of action of either a leave of absence or resignation. More than 2 weeks have elapsed since then,” they said.
Aside from the impeachment complaint, which was filed by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and was immediately endorsed by House of Representatives officials, Bautista and his wife, Patricia are facing charges against each other.
It can be recalled that the Comelec chief’s wife accused him of unexplained wealth amounting to close to PHP1 billion.
On the other hand, Bautista said taking a leave of absence or resign from office are options that he is considering.
“As I have publicly stated, these are options that I have been considering and praying over. When I decide, the (commissioners) will be the first to know,” he said in a text message to reporters.
Meanwhile, the poll chief said he has filed charges before the Taguig Prosector’s Office against his wife.
Bautista claimed he is ready to face the impeachment complaint filed against him.
Bautista made the statement after finally making an appearance at the deliberation on the Comelec’s proposed P16.1-billion budget for 2018 at the House of Representatives.
The House appropriations committee on Wednesday deferred its consideration of the Comelec’s 2018 budget after Bautista failed to show up at the hearing due to a scheduled meeting with his children’s guidance counselors.
Former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio also filed on Wednesday an impeachment complaint against Bautista on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust amid hidden-wealth allegations.
The verified impeachment complaint secured the endorsement of Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia, Kabayan Partylist Rep. Harry Roque, and Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino.
Although the embattled poll chief has yet to read the complaint, he said: “Sabi ko nga, ‘yan ay ipapaliwanag sa tamang panahon at sa tamang lugar.”
Bautista said he is weighing out all the options, including taking a leave of absence or resigning from his post, in consideration of the interests of his family and the Comelec.
“Ngayon ang ating mga tinitimbang kung anong mga susunod na hakbang at syempre gusto nating protektahan yung mga interes unang-una ng ating pamilya, ang interes din ng ating Comelec. Kaya’t yan ang ating pinag-aaralan, pinag-iisipan, at pinagdarasal,” Bautista said.
The complainants said Bautista betrayed public trust for failing to adopt safeguards under the Data Privacy Act (Republic Act No. 10173) that could have prevented the data breach or hacking of the Comelec website in March last year.
Bautista also fell short in his duties and responsibilities as poll chief when he failed to promptly act on the hacking of the Comelec website, as well as declined to assume direct control and supervision of the task force created after the incident, the complainants noted.
Furthermore, the complainants said Bautista betrayed public trust by obstructing justice when he cleared Smartmatic and Comelec IT specialists of any wrongdoing for the so-called script tweak during the consolidation/canvassing of results in the May 2016 elections.
The complainants also alleged that Bautista failed to properly disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) and the reported receipt of referral fees from the Smartmatic, the largest technology provider of the Comelec, through the Divina Law Office.
Bautista faces allegations from his estranged wife Patricia Paz who claimed that the poll body chief has undeclared wealth worth P1 billion