Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Juan Andres Bautista reiterated on Monday he was willing to stepping down following accusations of ill-gotten wealth by his estranged wife as Malacañang practically gave the green light on moves to impeach him.
An emotional Bautista appeared at the Comelec flag-raising ceremony and said it would be difficult to part ways with the officials and staff of the poll body, where he has served as chairman since 2015.
“It’s not hard to give up this post or step down from my position. It’s not a problem. My problem is losing my Comelec family who over the years have shown their sincere, genuine care and affection,” a tearful Bautista told Comelec officials and employees.
It was the second time Bautista hinted at stepping down rather than risk an impeachment ordeal.
“If it was just me, sure I would [go through the impeachment process]in order to vindicate myself. But, at the same time, I recognize that there will be other people who will be brought in and its going to be messy,” Bautista said in a television interview last week.
Bautista on Monday disclosed he had sought spiritual advice from Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
Bautista is being accused by his wife, Patricia Paz, of amassing nearly P1 billion in ill-gotten wealth and misdeclaring in his 2016 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
Comelec employees back boss
Employees of the poll body, in a statement, said that they did not believe the allegations of Bautista’s estranged wife, adding that the Comelec chief was a man of integrity.
“[W]e all can attest that he is a man of integrity, a man of credibility, and a man with so much love and dedication to his work, who wants nothing else but to deliver pure and transparent public service. He has nothing but commitment in bringing Comelec to the community,” the League of Elections Officers of the Nation (LEON) said in a manifesto of support.
Members of the group said questions on the integrity and credibility of the Comelec chairman also affected their own credibility “as election officers and the integrity of the May 2016 national and local elections.”
“Hence the attack is not only against Chairman Bautista but to the entire organization, pinpointing that what we delivered during the May 2016 elections is tainted. Certainly, as election front-liners, we cannot let this pass,” it added.
Also on Monday, Manuelito Luna asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for copies of Patricia Paz Bautista’s affidavit and the Comelec chief’s 35 Luzon Development Bank deposit books, in preparation for the filing of an impeachment complaint.
Luna, a member of the legal team of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and counsel for former Negros Oriental representative Jacinto Paras, announced earlier that he would file an impeachment complaint against Bautista and that he had secured the endorsement of a member of the House of Representatives.
In a letter to NBI Director Dante Gierran, Luna said: “[T]he Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives will not accept any documents other than certified or original, appended to impeachment complaints.”
Palace backs impeachment
Malacañang on Monday said President Rodrigo Duterte would support any impeachment move against corrupt government officials if this would bring about “a correction in our institutions.”
Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella issued the statement when asked whether Duterte would support an impeachment case against Bautista.
“Without making references to any particular individual, the President, of course, is highly supportive of all moves that will set the house, the Philippine government in order,” Abella told reporters during a news conference.
In an earlier interview, Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo predicted that Bautista would resign once impeached by the House of Representatives.
with CATHERINE S. VALENTE