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Poll exec tells Bautista: Take leave of absence

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 11:33 AM August 23, 2017

Commission of Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon admitted on Wednesday she advised Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista repeatedly to take a leave of absence amid the controversy over his estranged wife’s allegations that he amassed ill-gotten wealth.

“Yes, I have told him since day one when this problem became public that my advice is for him to take a leave before he decides to resign or whatever so that we could have a smooth functioning in the Comelec,” Guanzon told reporters after the House cancelled the hearing for the Comelec’s proposed P16-billion budget for 2018.

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READ: Faced with impeachment, Bautista a no-show to defend Comelec budget hearing

Guanzon said she gave Bautista the same advice after one week during a meeting with other commissioners: “I was very candid with him. I told him to take a leave for your sake also, and for the sake of Comelec.”

“He was nodding his head and said he will consider it,” the official said when asked how Bautista reacted to her advice.

“Now we’re in limbo. Who is the head of agency? He is in the country, and he has not filed an official leave of absence or whatever, so Comelec is suffering,” she said.

“I understand his personal predicament but we have priorities for the country and Comelec,” she said, expressing concern that the lawmakers might cut the commission’s budget for next year.

“The year 2018 is our preparation year for the 2019 elections, so it is concerning. Hopefully, our budget will not be reduced,” she said.

The House appropriations committee postponed the hearing and rescheduled it on Thursday (Aug. 24) due to the absence of Bautista, who issued a memorandum on Tuesday telling his commissioners he was attending a guidance counseling session with his children.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the hearing should be canceled as Bautista did not officially inform the appropriations panel of his absence in writing and did not designate a representative, prompting the committee chair, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, to call for a deferment.

“We are giving the Comelec chairman a chance to appear again tomorrow (Thursday), as there are many members of the House who wish to propound questions,” Nograles said.

“If the head is not here to defend the budget, there will be consequences,” he said, setting the next meeting at 9 a.m.

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“This is the last chance for the Comelec to present our budget,” Guanzon said.

Earlier this month, Bautista’s wife Patricia Cruz-Bautista publicly accused her husband of amassing nearly P1 billion in assets he allegedly did not declare in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Guanzon said Bautista’s situation put the Comelec in an awkward situation.

Asked about reported plans to impeach Bautista, Guanzon said she was confident he could defend himself.

“If an impeachment complaint against him, I’m sure he can defend himself ably being a good lawyer and having good lawyers,” she said. JPV

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TAGS: Chairman Andres Bautista, Comelec, Comelec budget, Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, House briefing, Ill-gotten wealth, Patricia Bautista
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