From running after and safeguarding recovered ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses, lawyer Andres “Andy” Bautista will now have a new mission—to hold credible elections in 2016.
Bautista on Monday relinquished his post as chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government and was immediately sworn into office as the new chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Malacañang announced his appointment and those of incoming commissioners Rowena Amelia Guanzon and Sheriff Abas earlier on Monday.
They will all serve a fixed term of seven years or until February 2, 2022.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed their appointments last Thursday.
Bautista will replace the controversial Sixto Brillantes Jr., who retired last February. Guanzon and Abas, meanwhile, will fill out the vacancies left by retired poll commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph.
The ad-interim appointments of the three new Comelec officials were sent to the Commission Appointments through a letter signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
“The directive of the President is that this is one of the legacies he wishes to leave the nation, credible, peaceful and honest elections in 2016. I will work with the commission in order to achieve that objective,” Bautista told reporters in his first appearance at the poll body’s office in Intramuros, Manila.
“Our elections are a very important component of our democracy. I always believe that if soul is to body, the same way that elections are to a democracy. It’s very important that we safeguard our electoral process,” he said.
Malacanang deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said “there was no word” on who will replace Bautista at PCGG.
Bautista, former dean of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law, was designated to head the PCGG in August 2011 and was among the nominees to replace impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.
He graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in Legal Management in 1986 and Law in 1990. He took his Master of Laws from Harvard Law School in 1993.
Bautista is the President of the Philippine Association of Law Schools.
While still a law student, he served as judicial clerk to then-Chief Justice Marcelo Fernan from 1989 to 1992.
Guanzon, meanwhile, was a former mayor of Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, and is a litigation lawyer known in the field of gender discrimination and violence against women.
She graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Economics and Law.
Guanzon went to Harvard Kennedy School of Government for her master’s degree in public administration where she was an Edward Mason Fellow.
She was appointed officer-in-charge of Cadiz City when the first Aquino administration took power in 1986 and was elected mayor in 1988.
Guanzon was chief of staff of Sen. Edgardo Angara and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and was special assistant to Labor Secretary Leonardo Quisumbing.
The only female commissioner in the seven-man Comelec, she said they have a lot of work to do, particularly on issues related to next year’s national and local elections.
Gunzon clarified that while she once dabbled in politics, she is neither a member of the Liberal Party (LP) nor associated with any lawyer working for the administration-backed political party.
“I want to assure you that the quality that is very important for our people is that commissioners should be independent and impartial. I can assure you also especially of my integrity,” she said.
Vice President Jejomar Binay as well as several other officials welcomed Bautista’s appointment.
“I welcome the appointment of Andy Bautista as chairman of the Comelec. He is a man known for his integrity and I am confident he will be able to meet the challenge of ensuring credible, honest, peaceful and orderly elections in 2016,” he said.
Dasmariñas City (Cavite) Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said “the Comelec, more than ever, needs a leader like Bautista to ensure clean, honest and automated elections in 2016.”
“I am confident that he will be able to continue meet the peoples’ expectations since his career is built on competence and credibility,” he added.
Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano, a member of the powerful Commission on Appointments who earlier warned the Comelec against pushing for a contract with Smartmatic for the 82,000 PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machines for the 2016 polls, backed Barzaga’s kind words for Bautista.
“He is a highly accomplished professional who has performed very well in the private and public sectors. He is very honest and capable and has no political leanings,” Albano said.