Faced with impeachment, Bautista a no-show to defend Comelec budget hearing
In the face of ill-gotten wealth allegations and a threat of impeachment, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairperson Andres Bautista skipped on Wednesday the hearing in the House of Representatives tackling the poll body’s proposed 2018 budget.
During the appropriations committee hearing, Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino said Bautista would not be around for the budget hearing to attend a meeting with his children’s guidance counselors.
“The chairman will be meeting with the guidance counselors of his children, that’s why it has been said earlier that he couldn’t attend this meeting right now,” Tolentino said.
Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim apologized on behalf of Bautista.
“What we can do today is sincerely apologize to Congress, to the Committee on Appropriations and its members, and we respectfully request that we be accorded a chance to present the budget, and we will exert utmost effort to make sure that the chairman will honor, not only the committee but the entire Congress, and make sure the Commission budget will be approved,” Lim said.
“We really beg your kind indulgence,” he added.
Appropriations committee chairperson Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said because there was no formal letter of communications to excuse Bautista from the hearing, the appropriations committee would cancel the hearing and defer it to Thursday, when the chairman is expected to appear to defend the budget.
Nograles warned: “Otherwise, if the chairman will not show himself, then you may suffer the consequences,” adding that the power of the purse still lies with Congress.
“This is a budget briefing, where you are supposed to defend the budget. And if the head is not here to defend your budget, then there will be consequences,” Nograles said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman earlier in the hearing moved for the cancellation of the Comelec’s budget hearing because Bautista has not given official authority to his fellow commissioners.
“Considering that the chairman of Comelec is absent and there is no official communication with respect to his absence. and there’s no authority given by the chair to any of the commissioners and consistent with our rule that the head of the agency must be present before we proceed with the presentation of the proposed budget of the said agency, I move that we cancel the hearing today,” Lagman said in his motion, later seconded and approved by the chairperson.
The Comelec has a proposed budget of P16.15 billion (inclusive of retirement and life insurance premiums) in 2018.
An impeachment complaint is also in the works to be filed against Bautista before the House of Representatives for his purported ill-gotten wealth as alleged by his estranged wife.
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