Memo filed vs Comelec chairman's Japan trip
MANILA, Philippines – The most senior commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Christian Lim, sent a memo to his colleagues criticizing the recent trip of Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista to Japan.
In a memo dated Monday, June 27, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler, Lim said Bautista should not have issued a travel authority to himself.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said Bautista should get the permission of the Comelec en banc, or the commission sitting as a whole, before he can leave the Philippines.
Lim said, "Based on existing guidelines, there is no instance that a Chairman applies and approves his own travel authority. This is simply a concept of checks and balances."
Sought for a reaction, Bautista told Rappler on Tuesday morning, June 28, that he is "preparing a brief response" to Lim’s memo.
He also referred to the Commission on Audit (COA) chair and the Ombudsman, who both reportedly sign their own travel authorities.
"Perhaps you should ask the opinion of the COA chair and the Ombudsman who are both legal luminaries," Bautista said in a text message.
Bautista made a personal trip to Tokyo, Japan, from June 23 to June 26.
To make this trip, Bautista availed of a one-day privilege leave on June 23. The rest of his trip was covered by a long weekend, as June 24, a Friday, was a holiday in the city of Manila, while the following days were Saturday and Sunday.
Lim’s memo comes after all 6 Comelec commissioners issued a strongly worded memo against Bautista’s supposedly "failed leadership." (READ: Comelec Chairman Bautista denies 'failed leadership')
Bautista cites COA chair, Ombudsman
In a memo to his colleagues dated June 21, Bautista explained that he is allowed to issue his own travel authority on the basis of Executive Order (EO) No. 477 series of 1991 and EO No. 459 series of 2005.
Bautista said officials like the COA chair and the Ombudsman "sign their travel authorities as heads of their respective agencies," on the basis of these executive orders.
Lim, however, said that "there is a misapplication and/or misquotation of the provisions" of EOs 477 and 459.
He said EO 477 "refers to preserving the independence of the constitutional commissions such that it exempted the latter from securing a travel authority from the Office of the President."
Lim added that EO 459 "clearly refers to agencies within or attached to the Executive Department."
He said Bautista’s citation of EO 459 "omits the immediately succeeding sentence," which states that for the purposes of a paragraph of that EO, "heads of agencies refer to the Department Secretaries or their equivalents."
Lim also said Bautista’s memo "explicitly omits Section 2 of EO 477," which states that constitutional bodies such as the Comelec "shall promulgate guidelines on travels abroad for their members, officials, and employees."
He said that "the prevailing existing guideline, as approved by the Commission en banc, remains Minute Resolution No. 15-0361 dated May 12, 2016."
Minute Resolution No. 15-0361 provides "that for future travels of the Chairman, the most senior member of the Commission en banc shall sign his travel authority."
Lim said, "Until the existing guideline is revoked by the Commission en banc, and another is put in place, we all have to follow the guidelines we ourselves have enacted."
In a text message over the weekend, Guanzon said that Bautista "did not have en banc authority to travel abroad, and thus the en banc was not able to designate an acting chair, which is according to our rules."
"There are documents still not signed, including notices of awards to suppliers of election materials, thus payments are delayed," Guanzon said.
Bautista’s trip to Japan, however, covered only one working day.
The Comelec is set to discuss issues involving Bautista in its regular meeting on Tuesday. – Rappler.com