Comelec picks Lim as acting chief
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has designated Commissioner Christian Robert Lim as its acting chief following the departure of its impeached chair, Andres Bautista.
James Jimenez, spokesperson for the Comelec, said on Tuesday that a meeting of the full commission voted unanimously to designate Lim as acting chief of the agency.
This is the second time that Lim, the most senior member of the election body, is serving as acting Comelec head. He first served in that capacity in 2015 after the retirement of Sixto Brillantes Jr. in February of that year.
Lim served until then President Benigno Aquino III appointed Bautista to the top Comelec post three months later.
This time, Lim will serve until President Duterte can find someone to take Bautista’s place.
Unexplained wealth raps
Bautista resigned on Oct. 11 amid a scandal involving accusations of unexplained wealth leveled at him by his estranged wife, Patricia Bautista, and which became the basis of an impeachment complaint that the justice committee of the House of Representatives later threw out for being defective.
The House, however, voted to override the committee’s decision after Bautista made known that his resignation would take effect only at year-end.
Mr. Duterte saved Bautista from having to go through trial in the Senate by accepting his resignation on Monday “effective immediately.” Bautista announced his departure on the same day, mooting his impeachment.
The Comelec accepted Bautista’s resignation also on Monday. But the House justice committee cannot terminate the proceedings just yet.
Rep. Reynaldo Umali, the committee chair, told reporters on Tuesday that the panel had taken judicial notice of Bautista’s departure from office, but some “formalities” needed to be cleared before the proceedings could be ended.
The committee directed Bautista’s lawyers—Luis Karlo Tagarda and Christian Diaz
—to put in writing the effectivity of his resignation. It also required the lawyers to secure Bautista’s authorization to represent him, as this was not indicated in the resignation letter submitted to the panel.
Umali said the proceedings would be officially terminated only after the committee had submitted its report to the plenary. That would be at the resumption of session on Nov. 20.
Mr. Duterte has to find a new Comelec chair soon because Lim is retiring on Feb. 2 next year after completing his seven-year term.
“I [asked] the commissioners [if they were sure they wanted to designate] me. I’m retiring and, in fact, I’m focused now on my turnover because I have pending cases. As acting chairman, I will have a lot of work,” Lim told reporters on Tuesday.
Jimenez said Lim’s retirement in four months’ time was not a problem because the Comelec did not expect the top post to remain vacant for a long time.
Seniority and experience
He explained that it was Lim’s seniority and vast experience that made him the commission’s most logical choice for acting chief.
“He has a definite edge in managing elections. We are looking at a man who has a wealth of experience in managing elections and also the seniority,” Jimenez told reporters.
Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal urged Mr. Duterte on Monday to consider election officials who had served for more than 10 years in choosing a new Comelec chief.
“For sure, their vast experience and knowledge of election laws and regulations place them in a better position to perform the job in this highly specialized field of resolving election cases,” Macalintal said.
The Comelec Employees’ Union agreed with Macalintal, urging Mr. Duterte to pick a Comelec insider.