Friday , June 22, 2018

Comelec chief resigns

MANILA (Updated) -- Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Juan Andres Bautista announced Wednesday, October 11, that he is resigning from his post by end of this year.

"It is with deep sadness that I am informing you about my decision to resign as the chair of the Commission on Elections by the end of the year," Bautista said in a letter to the Comelec.

The poll chief said he has already filed a resignation letter to Malacanang. His resignation is effective December 31, 2017.

Bautista's plan to resign came amid allegations by his estranged wife, Patricia, that he had amassed ill-gotten wealth amounting to at least P1 billion.

In his letter, Bautista expressed his intent to resign by year-end, citing the need to prioritize his family "more than ever."

"After much prayer and discernment, I believe that this is the right time to step down given the postponement of the barangay and SK [Sangguniang Kabataan] elections. This was not an easy decision. But my family, especially my children, need me now more than ever," Bautista said.

Shortly after Bautista announced his plan to vacate office by December 31, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar wished the poll chief success in his future endeavors.

"We respect the decision of Chairman Andy Bautista. We wish him well," Andanar said in a statement.

Patricia earlier accused the poll chief of being involved in corruption while in government service, noting that Bautista has several undeclared properties in his 2016 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth.

Bautista was slapped with an impeachment complaint before the House of Representatives but the members of the House committee on justice junked the petition to remove him from office.

Bautista said he believed it was the "right time" to step down since he was able to serve with "the best of [his] ability."

He also thanked the people who "never left" his side, despite the "hurtful, baseless, and malicious accusations" hurled against him.

"I am thankful for the love, prayers, and support you have shown me most especially during my most challenging times," he said.

In a statement, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said he already anticipated Bautista's decision as the latter merely wanted to protect his family from "injurious public controversy."

"The resignation is an honorable exit given the furor that erupted following the rupture of the marital bond. That it came after the impeachment complaint has been dismissed by the House of Representatives stripped the resignation as an escape valve vis-à-vis the complaint filed against him," Panelo said.

"In the end, his decision was motivated by his desire to protect his children from the debilitating consequences arising from his family being in the vortex of an injurious public controversy. He evidently acted in the best interest of his family as well as the institution he heads," he added.

Bautista impeachment

On Wednesday afternoon, the House of Representatives is scheduled to tackle in the plenary the report of the House justice panel junking the impeachment complaint against Bautista.

By a 26-2 vote, the justice panel last September 20 junked the complaint filed against Bautista, based largely on the allegations leveled against him by his estranged wife, Patricia. The panel affirmed its decision to junk the impeachment complaint against the poll chief.

However, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the impeachment case against Bautista may still proceed if House members will reject of the report of the justice committee.

"Kung hindi aprubahan ng plenary yung committee report ng committee on justice, then aakyat yan sa impeachment trial," he added. [If the plenary will not approve the committee report of the committee on justice, the impeachment trial will proceed]

Kabayan Representative Harry Roque has urged his colleagues in the House of Representatives to overturn the report of the House committee on justice junking the impeachment complaint against Bautista.

"Nagtataka lang po ako bakit kailangan pang hanggang Disyembre. Meron pa ba ho siyang gustong mga kasong madesisyunan? Meron pa po ba siyang nais na mga kontratang mapirmahan?" Roque asked.

[I'm just wondering why you need to stay until December. Are there cases he wants to decide on? Does he want to sign a contract?]

Roque admitted that earlier in the day he said he will no longer support the reversal of the justice panel's decision but later he realized that Bautista could use his resignation announcement to evade the impeachment trial.

Roque, one of the endorsers of the complaint against Bautista, noted that the once the House affirms the decision of the committee, the Comelec official will be immune from impeachment suit for one year.

Cibac partylist Representative Sherwin Tugna, House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms chairman, said he was also "surprised" with the poll chief's announcement on Wednesday.

Tugna said he believed that the resignation of Bautista whom he was able to work with was prompted by his love for his family.

"Being now removed from all the duties and responsibilities of being a Chairman of the Comelec, he will now have more time to spend for his children," said Tugna.

Akbayan party-list Representative Tom Villarin, for his part, said he respects the decision of the poll chief.

Villarin said he hopes that the next poll chief that will replace Bautista will be faithful to the Comelec's constitutional mandate to facilitate "fair" elections.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat called the decision of Bautista "brave."

"I respect the obviously painful and brave decision made by the Comelec Chair," he said.

Baguilat has called on the public to remain vigilant on the next appointee of the President to the poll body.

"In the wake of his resignation, the Filipino people must be vigilant regarding the President's choice for the next Comelec chairperson," he added.

Bautista was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III on April 28, 2015. He term was supposed to expire on February 2, 2022.

He was once nominated as next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Bautista earned his Bachelor of Laws from the Ateneo College of Law and Master of Laws from Harvard Law School. (With Ruth Abbey Gita/SunStar Philippines)