MANILA – (UPDATED 6:38 P.M) Saying “the time for him to let go has come,” six members of the Commission on Elections urged their chairman Andres Bautista on Thursday to either go on leave or resign, in order to brace for an expectedly bruising impeachment battle and to shield his four children from the fallout.
“The undersigned COMELEC Commissioners, having at heart the best interests 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 the six commissioners.
They noted that “an impeachment complaint has already been filed against him, duly endorsed by three members of Congress, hence, will now go through the process of hearing and voting. The possibility of impeachment looms. If impeached, he will have to stand trial before the Senate. Before this, he and his wife have filed charges and counter-charges against each other. The grounds cited in the impeachment complaint, as well as the accusations that have been hurled between the spouses are utterly serious and partake of possible criminal liability. The effects and consequences of impeachment and conviction by the Senate, acting as IMPEACHMENT COURT, will be life-changing, if not catastrophic. Newspaper reports have it that the BIR and the other agencies will conduct their own investigation, even as the Senate Committee on Finance is already on the move.”
Signatories were commissioners Christian Robert Lim, Luie Tito F. Guia, Ma. Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon, Al A. Parreño, Sheriff M. Abas, Arthur D. Lim.
Narrowly averted P1 budget
“Proof that he needs to devote all his time to his defense and family,” said the commissioners, became evident when Bautista failed to show up at Wednesday’s budget hearing before the House Committee on Appropriations as he had to bring his four children to a guidance counselor. “The Commissioner 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,” his colleagues added.
“In our view, while due process of law will take its 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.”
Unfortunately, the commissioners pointed out, “Chair Bautista has not made good on his promise that he would inform us soonest on his course of action of either a leave of absence or resignation. More than two weeks have elapsed since then.
“With all due respect, it is our consensus that Chair Bautista can no longer effectively lead the Commission.”
They thus concluded: “The time for him to let go has come.”
The commissioners’ stand was forged a day after former lawmaker Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio filed an impeachment complaint against Bautista, citing as grounds betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
The complaint was endorsed by three lawmakers – Reps. Harry Roque, Gwen Garcia and Abraham Tolentino – which means the complaint can move forward to the Committee on Rules.
Also on Wednesday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre ordered the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to conduct its own investigation of Bautista’s actions when he was still PCGG chair, before he went on to Comelec.
Commissioners:no judgment on issues vs chair
The commissioners said they were not coercing him to resign, but merely stressing the fact that the Comelec has a tremendous job ahead that requires a chairman who can fully function.
They also made it clear their appeal for Bautista to resign or go on leave did not mean that they believed the issues raised against their chief.
“I would like to emphasize: this does not mean that we believe the accusations against our chairman. He is entitled to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. We believe the Chair will put up a good defense,” said Commissioner Arthur Lim, speaking mostly in Filipino.
Commissioner Robert Lim noted that “proof that he needs all his time in defense and his family was when he was absent at yesterday’s hearing as he brought his four children to [a] guidance [counsellor].”
For her part, Guanzon said, “I think he should resign for his own sake and Comelec’s.” Wednesday’s events, she said, had “made me decide [it was best] for him to resign — best for himself and Comelec, so he can prepare fully for his defense.”
Guanzon noted also that Bautista failed to attend two en banc meetings, besides skipping the House budget hearing on Wednesday.
The commissioners last spoke to Bautista on August 13. They said it had been days before they have heard anything from him.
Once Bautista does go on leave or resigns, the commissioners must vote among themselves who will replace him as acting chairman.