Elections chief denies bias for Grace Poe

Paterno Esmaquel II
Elections chief denies bias for Grace Poe
His accuser, Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, has herself been accused by the opposition UNA of working for administration standard-bearer Mar Roxas

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista on Monday, January 11, denied his colleague’s accusation that he is biased for presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe.

Unang una, ako po, walang pinapaboran,” Bautista said in an interview on dzMM on Monday. (First of all, I do not favor anyone.)

He added, “Kumbaga, in the end, puno’t dulo po, I think ‘yung aming mga actions, ‘yung aming mga decisions, ang dapat maging batayan kung talagang nagpapakitang meron kaming bias for a particular candidate.” 

(In the end, I think our actions, our decisions, will be the basis of whether we’re showing bias for a particular candidate.)

This comes after Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said Bautista is “showing partisanship” as he addresses cases filed by Poe against the poll body before the Supreme Court (SC).

Guanzon told Rappler on Sunday, January 11: “It is Chair Bautista who is showing partisanship, not me. He voted in favor of Grace Poe; now he wants to shoot down our comment. And Grace Poe urged Bautista to probe the commissioners. Wow.”

Guanzon openly criticized Bautista after the Comelec chairman questioned her for filing an “unauthorized” comment against Poe before the Supreme Court. 

Bautista’s critic, Guanzon herself is accused of partisanship. 

The opposition United Nationalist Alliance said the Liberal Party wants to use Guanzon, a former mayor of Cadiz City, to ensure the victory of administration standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II. Guanzon has denied UNA’s claim, and stressed her role as a women’s rights advocate in the Comelec.

Biased for Roxas too?

Downplaying Guanzon’s accusation on Monday, Bautista explained that he had “never spoken” with Poe in his life. He said he only shook hands with her when she filed her certificate of candidacy at the Comelec in October 2015. 

Explaining his vote on Poe’s petition, he said that, for him, Poe is not a natural-born Filipino and neither did she meet the 10-year residency requirement for presidential candidates. He doesn’t believe, however, that Poe had the “deliberate intent to mislead” voters. 

Eventually, Bautista voted to junk the petition to cancel Poe’s presidential bid. 

During the radio interview on Monday, broadcaster Karen Davila also asked Bautista about a previous claim by an ABS-CBN commentator, Teddyboy Locsin, that Bautista “was biased” for Roxas.

Locsin reportedly said Bautista acted as Roxas’ consultant or adviser in a previous campaign.

So, ngayon, apparently ‘biased’ ang accusation sa ‘yo ngayon, biased ka naman for Grace,” Davila told the Comelec chairman. (So now, apparently, you’re accused of being biased, and now you’re biased for Grace.)

Bautista answered in jest, “Well siguro, because of that, patas na, Karen, so neutral na ako ngayon.” (Well perhaps, because of that, it’s fair, Karen, so I’m now neutral.)

The chairman said that, in the end, he wants to protect the image of the Comelec.

Ang ayokong mangyari is that, because of this aming ‘di pagkakaunawaan ay ma-compromise ‘yung imahe po ng ating Comelec at mas lalo na ‘yung ating halalan na napakahalaga. Mas mahalaga po ito kaysa sa akin,” he said.

(What I don’t want to happen is that, because of this misunderstanding is we will compromise the image of our Comelec and more importantly of our elections, which remain very important. It’s more important than myself.) 

Bautista, who was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III to the Comelec, is a former chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

Once a nominee for the position of chief justice, Bautista is also a former law dean of the Far Eastern University. He also once led the group that runs the Shangri-La hotels and resorts in the Philippines. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.