May 25, 2018, 8:33 pm
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Bautista told: Go on leave or resign

ALL six commissioners of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday asked their beleaguered chairman, Andres Bautista, to go on leave or resign.

In a hastily called press conference, Commissioners Christian Lim, Arthur Lim, Rowena Guanzon, Al Parreno, Luie Guia, and Sheriff Abas presented a statement that said they are making the call “having at heart the best interest of the service, and motivated by the deep sense of duty to our people.”

They said Bautista, who is subject of an impeachment case filed Wednesday mainly because of the allegation of his wife Patricia that he has undeclared wealth of around P1 billion, should “go on leave of absence for such a 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   children.

Sought for reaction, Bautista hinted he has not made a decision on whether to resign or go on leave. “As I have publicly stated, these are options that I have been considering and praying over. When I decide, they will be the first to know,” he said in a text message.

Lim, reading the statement, said Bautista’s stay at the Comelec while he is facing allegations will be detrimental to the poll body’s preparations for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections as well as the 2019 midterm polls.

“With all due respect, it is our consensus that Chair Bautista can no longer effectively lead the Commission,” the statement said.

“The time for him to let go has come,” it added.

They said Bautista needs to devote his time to his defense and his family, and proof of this “was when he was absent in yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) hearing as he had to bring his children to a guidance counselor.”

“The Commission was threatened with a one-peso budget. Luckily, the commissioners present were able to convince the committee to reset the hearing to this (Thursday) morning,” the statement said.

Bautista, at the House hearing earlier yesterday, said he is ready to face the impeachment complaint and admitted he is still weighing his options, including resignation.

“I’m considering all options,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the budget hearing on the Comelec’s P16-billion proposed national budget for 2018.

Bautista, who has not yet read the 23-page complaint filed by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and private lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, said he would answer the allegations at the appropriate time and venue.

For now, he is still considering taking a leave of absence to protect his children and the Comelec’s integrity.

The 23-page complaint was based on various grounds, including the allegation of Mrs. Bautista that he did not disclose the P1 billion alleged unexplained wealth in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

The complaint accused Bautista of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution and indirect bribery. It was endorsed by deputy speaker Gwen Garcia and Representatives Harry Roque (PL, Kabayan) and Abraham Tolentino (PDP-Laban, Cavite).

House majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas warned Paras and Topacio that their complaint will be considered “hearsay” if the complainants do not have personal knowledge of the allegations. Fariñas said the complainants cannot just rely on their plan to present Mrs. Bautista to testify against her husband.

“Patricia is not the complainant here,” he said. “We have a marital or spousal privilege that one spouse cannot testify against another if the case is one against the other. That’s in the Rules of Court,” he said.

Sen. Francis Escudero said he is inclined to stop investigations on the bank accounts of Bautista because of the impeachment complaint but he has to consult committee members and the authors of the resolution calling for an inquiry.

Escudero’s committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies started the inquiry on Wednesday. During the hearing, he urged Bautista to issue a waiver on his bank secrecy rights so the panel could examine his alleged bank accounts at the Luzon Development Bank. – With Wendell Vigilia and JP Lopez
  
  
 
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