House budget committee poises cuts if Comelec Chair fails to show up again

August 23, 2017 - 12:13 PM
Comelec facade emblem
The Commission on Elections main office in Intramuros, Manila. FILE IMAGE BY INTERAKSYON

MANILA – The chairman of the appropriations committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning warned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of possible budget cuts if its chairman Andres Bautista fails to show up at the next briefing for its 2018 proposed budget.

The briefing for the poll body’s proposed PhP16.1-billion budget for 2018 was rescheduled to August 24 at 9 a.m. because of Bautista’s absence in Wednesday’s meeting.

In a memorandum issued by Bautista to the Comelec commissioners, he said he would not be able to attend the budget briefing because he had to accompany his children in their session with the guidance counselor.

Three weeks ago, Bautista’s wife, Patricia went public about their marital spat and accused her husband of keeping at least P1 billion in unexplained wealth.

At Wednesday’s budget briefing, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman moved to defer the deliberation of the poll body’s appropriations because Bautista was not around. Five of the six commissioners were present, but did not have a letter of authorization from Bautista to represent the body.

Lagman’s motion was approved by the panel.

Commissioner Arthur Lim issued a “sincere apology” to Congress and to the committee for the chairman’s absence.

Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles, appropriation committee head, said that, while they understood the personal reasons behind Bautista’s absence, the Comelec chair should show up on Thursday.

“Tomorrow, it would be fair enough for us to expect his attendance. Otherwise, if the chair will not show up, then you may suffer the consequences,” Nograles said.

“Remember, this is a budget briefing where you are supposed to defend your budget, but if your head is not here, then there will be consequences,” Nograles added.

In an interview, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon reiterated her call to Bautista to take a leave of absence amid the personal problems he was facing.

“I have told him that – to take a leave – since day one when his problem became public. That’s my advice, for him to take a leave, before he decides to resign or whatever, so we can have a smooth-functioning Comelec,” she said.

She said the commissioners have anticipated that they might have “potential problems” with the budget hearing if Bautista does not show up in Congress.

“I understand his personal predicament pero may priorities po tayo para sa bayan at sa Comelec. Nakakabahala lang, sana naman ay hindi mabawasan ang budget namin (We have priorities for the nation, for Comelec. This raises concerns; let’s hope our budget doesn’t get shaved),” Guanzon added.

Asked about the effect of the impeachment complaint being poised against Bautista, Guanzon said, the Comelec chair can defend himself “being a good lawyer and having good lawyers.”

The group of former congressman Jacinto Paras announced its plan to file a complaint to impeach Bautista over his alleged ill-gotten wealth.