SIX of seven members of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc on Thursday called on embattled Chairman Juan Andres Bautista to either go on leave or resign following the filing of an impeachment complaint against him for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
Bautista sits as head of the seven-member Comelec en banc. All six members – Commissioners Christian Robert Lim, Luie Tito Guia, Ma. Rowena Amelia Guanzon, Al Parreño, Sheriff Abas and Arthur Lim – signed a statement saying “the time for him (Bautista) to let go has come.”
“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,” the statement said.
One of the commissioners, who asked not to be named, said the ultimate decision was still for the chairman to make.
“The Commission just needs to go on with its work and insulate itself from the chair’s personal issues,” he told The Manila Times.
An impeachment complaint was filed against Bautista on Wednesday by former Negros Oriental representative Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.
It was endorsed by Deputy Speaker for Visayas Gwendolyn Garcia, Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque and Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino.
If impeached by the House of Representatives, the articles of impeachment will be forwarded to the Senate, which will become an impeachment court for Bautista’s trial.
Paras and Topacio’s complaint cited negligence on the part of Bautista that led to the hacking of voters’ personal data and the change in the script of the transparency server that broadcast the 2016 elections results.
They also accused Bautista of misdeclaring his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, citing documents submitted by Bautista’s estranged wife, Patricia, to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), alleging, among others, that the Comelec chief had amassed nearly P1 billion in ill-gotten while serving in government.
Among the pieces of evidence were certified copies of Bautista’s 35 bank accounts with the Luzon Development Bank, and an account with Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.
Patricia also alleges that her husband received some P500,000 in referral fees from automated election technology provider Smartatic Corp. through the DivinaLaw Office.
Bautista denies all the allegations and said his estranged wife wanted to get a settlement of P620 million from him.
Bautista ready to face impeach rap
The Comelec chief said on Thursday he was ready to face impeachment before the House of Representatives.
The allegations, he said, “will be explained at the right time and the right place.”
He answered, “Oo naman (Of course)” when asked if he was ready to face impeachment.
Bautista, who attended the budget hearing for Comelec at the House on Thursday, said he had yet to receive a copy of the impeachment complaint.
“Right now we are weighing what steps to take next. Of course we want to protect first the interest of my family, also Comelec. So that is what we are studying, thinking of, and praying about,” the Comelec chief said.
When asked if resignation was among the options, he replied: “lahat ng options naman kino-consider natin e (I am considering all options).”
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said he would refer the verified impeachment complaint to the House justice committee after the budget process.
“If there is urgency and the complaint if okay, then I can refer it already immediately so the committee can set a date.”
with REINA C. TOLENTINO