Guanzon: Bautista asked to put his name on Comelec comment
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon on Friday reacted to Chair Andres Bautista’s memorandum requiring her to explain her “unauthorized” comment on Sen. Grace Poe’s disqualification cases filed before the Supreme Court.
Guanzon defended herself from the accusations, saying the memorandum cast a stain on her reputation as a commissioner and as a lawyer.
“I must emphasize that as a commissioner, I am not a subordinate or employee of Chair Bautista and he has no administrative supervision or control over me,” she added.
According to Guanzon, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against Comelec’s cancellation of Poe’s certificate of candidacy for the presidency with an order to file a comment in 10 days. “The petition was received by the Office of the Solicitor General, who could not represent the Comelec due to a conflict of interest, having accepted the case of the Senate Electoral Tribunal,” her statement said.
During the holidays, she said, when she learned that a TRO was issued, she asked Comelec law department director Maria Norina S. Tangaro-Casingal to get a copy of the petition from the OSG. However, because of the holidays, the law department was able to get a copy of the petition only on Jan. 4.
With the deadline to file a comment set on Jan. 7, Guanzon said the Comelec en banc on Jan. 5 agreed that she would write the comment on the first division cases with the assistance of Casingal “to ensure that it is filed on time.”
She said the Comelec en banc also agreed that she and Commissioner Arthur Lim would represent the poll body in the oral arguments.
“I stated that, with no offense meant, the chair cannot represent us in the oral arguments, because he gave a dissenting opinion,” Guanzon said.
In the afternoon of Jan. 6, Guanzon said, the chief of staff of Bautista, Marina Demeterio, called her office and asked for a copy of the comment, but it was not finished yet.
“We will have to work overnight and we will file it in the morning of Jan. 7,” said Guanzon. “Atty. Demeterio told my chief of staff that even if Chair Bautista could not sign it, to please put his name on the comment. She sent his MCLE Compliance Number, so I had his name written on the comment above my name and Director Casingal’s.”
On Jan. 7, Guanzon said her legal staff left the office at 3 a.m. after having the comment reproduced by Casingal.
At around 9 a.m. of the same day, Guanzon said she and Casingal signed the comment.
“Chair Bautista was not in his office and did not send word or a note that he wanted to sign the comment,” she said. “Thereafter, the law department served copies to the parties by registered mail and returned to Comelec. Executive Director Jose M. Tolentino signed the affidavit of service at past 10 o’clock.”
She said the law department lawyer then proceeded to the Supreme Court and filed the comment before 12 noon.
“The Comelec en banc on Jan. 5 did not require that all of us have to review or approve the comment before it is filed because of the urgency. Neither did the Comelec en banc require that all of us must sign the comment. Not all of the commissioners have MCLE Compliance and cannot sign pleadings,” Guanzon said.
“In sum, the preparation and filing of the [c]omment had the imprimatur of the [Comelec en banc]. The [m]emorandum of Chair Bautista unfortunately damaged the image of the institution and I am afraid might prejudice our case before the Supreme Court. Our first priority should be the institution and the country that we must serve faithfully,” she added. NC
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.