BELEAGUERED Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista is leaving the poll body by the end of the year.
Reading a letter before the employees of the Comelec, Bautista said he wanted to let his Comelec family be the first to know of his decision.
”It is with deep sadness that I am informing you of my decision to resign as Chair of the Commission on Elections by the end of the year....This was not an easy decision. But my family, especially my children, need me now more than ever,” he said.
Bautista explained that he arrived at the decision after much prayer and discernment, adding that it was the right time to step down given the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
The poll chief cited the help and support given to him by the employees, adding that they enabled him to serve the Comelec and the Filipino people to the best of his ability.
“The May 2016 Automated National and Local Elections was a testament to our collective sacrifices and teamwork, as it was hailed by independent local and foreign observers as the best managed and most credible in our electoral history,” he said.
In closing, Bautista called on the Comelec officials and staff to continue to perform the mandate entrusted to the Comelec, protect the integrity of elections and serve the people faithfully.
In an interview, Bautista said he made the decision assured that the fate of the barangay and SK polls has already been decided and the poll body’s budget for next year already about to be approved.
“Whoever will be appointed to replace me will no longer have to deal with these problems. When he or she takes over next year, he will only continue with the preparations for the barangay and SK polls. Yung budget, tapos na din sa Kamara at matatapos na din sa Senado,” he said.
Lawmakers who are trying to impeach the Comelec chief welcomed his decision to resign.
In separate statements, both Eatern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone and Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said the decision of Bautista will also spare the Comelec from further issues involving the chairman only.
“The decision of chairman Bautista to resign was a honorable move on his part. It will free the Comelec as an institution from the possibility of being dragged into the legal issues that he is facing. It will also give him more precious time with his children and to attend to his legal battles,” Evardone said.
Vargas stressed that Bautista’s resignation will give him the opportunity to focus on clearing his name in both personal and public issues.
“Likewise, this will appropriately distance the Comelec from his personal and legal circumstances, instead carry out mandated organizational functions,” Vargas added.
One of the endorsers of the impeachment complaint against Bautista, Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque, said that with his decision, the Comelec will no longer support the reversal of the Committee report on the dismissal of the impeachment complaint against him.
“Because of his planned resignation, the cases filed against Chairman Bautista can now proceed. The allegations against him, notably that he accepted referral fees from Smartmatic through Divina Law, are serious and put the integrity of our electoral process in question. These should be investigated and resolved.
Opposition solon, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said that a personal decision like Bautista’s must be respected.
Meanwhile, Villarin appealed to the possible successor of Bautista to be faithful to the Comelec’s constitutional mandate to facilitate a fair, honest, and peaceful transition of power through elections, especially now that attacks on the independence of the democratic institutions seem to be in fashion.
Another opposition lawmaker, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr., said he respects the obviously painful and brave decision made by the Comelec Chair.
Like Villarin, Baguilat advised the public to be vigilant regarding the President’s choice for the next Comelec chairperson as several issues critical to the country require the effective and independent performance of Comelec.
Senators hail Bautista
Senators lauded the decision of Bautista to resign as Comelec chief.
Sen. Grace Poe said that with all the scandals that Bautista is facing, it is time that he focuses on his own personal problems citing the fact that the Comelec is being dragged into a word war between Bautista and his wife, Patricia.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon supported the view of Poe as he described the move as the right thing to do amid the accusations of alleged bribery raised against him by his own wife and his alleged questionable bank accounts.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Bautista’s decision is the decent thing to do to avoid the suspicion that he will use his position to clear his name amid the complaint filed against him.
But Sen. Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero, who chairs the Senate committee on banks, said his investigation into Bautista’s questionable bank accounts will continue regardless if the Comelec Chair is out already in his position.
Recently, a Lower House panel dismissed the impeachment complaint filed against the Comelec chief due to the fact his wife under the law cannot testify against him and no other person has personal knowledge of the allegations against him.
Patricia has alleged that Bautista has nearly P1 billion in undeclared assets and some properties outside the country.
Bautista allegedly owns 35 bank accounts with the Luzon Development Bank containing a total balance of P329,220,962.
With Jester P. Manalastas, Camille P. Balagtas.