All Comelec commissioners hit Chairman Bautista

MANILA, Philippines – Weeks after the May 9 polls, all 6 Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioners issued a strongly worded memo hitting Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista for his supposed failures as leader of the poll body.

The Comelec commissioners cited a range of issues, such as the delayed allowances of teachers who served as election inspectors. 

Rappler on Thursday afternoon, June 23, obtained a copy of the memo dated June 3. 

"At the outset and with all due respect, we, the Commissioners constituting the majority of the Commission en banc, express our position of a failed leadership of the Commission on Elections," the commissioners said.

The memo was signed by 6 of 7 Comelec members: commissioners Christian Lim, Luie Guia, Al Parreño, Arthur Lim, Rowena Guanzon, and Sheriff Abas.

Arthur Lim said he signed the letter "with a heavy heart." He said his concurrence is also "subject to (1) validation of certain material facts; and (2) observance of due process and material courtesy."

Guia, Parreño, and Abas joined Arthur Lim in saying they signed the memo "with a heavy heart."

Delay in paying teachers

In their memo, the commissioners, for one, mentioned the delay in paying teachers who served as boards of election inspectors (BEIs). 

They said Republic Act 10756 says it is an election offense not to pay BEIs "within 15 days from the date of elections."

They said the Comelec's Finance Services Department, which is under Bautista’s office, "has failed to comply with the mandatory provision of law." 

"The provision of cash cards from the Land Bank of the Philippines containing no funds does not only constitute an election offense, but may be considered as estafa as well," the commissioners said.

"Up to now, we are unaware of the efforts of the Office of the Chairman on how this problem is being remedied. Instead of seeking for solutions or apologizing to the teachers, the Chairman now attempts to downplay the number of teachers that have remained unpaid," they added.

They also hit Bautista for supposedly "blaming the election officers for the delay in payment due to their reluctance to use cash cards."

"Instead of finding solutions, the Chairman simply passed the buck to the unfortunate election officers, who, aside from being unpaid in mobilization and relocation expenses, are now liable for an election offense under Republic Act 10756," they said. 

Bautista: 'That is old news'

Another issue brought up by the 6 Comelec commissioners involves the upcoming barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Council) elections.

They criticized Bautista for saying in the media that the barangay and SK elections should be postponed.

"The Commission en banc is a collegial body, yet the Chairman, in media interviews, made an assertion to have the barangay and SK elections postponed notwithstanding the fact that the Commission en banc was never consulted on the matter," the 6 commissioners said.

"The Commission on Elections exists primarily for the holding of elections," they said, adding that Bautista's "unilateral statement" places the Comelec "in a bad light as being lazy."

The commissioners said they expected a reply by June 6. 

Sought for reaction, Bautista told Rappler on Thursday: "That is old news. I was only given a copy on June 15 and have responded to the 'alleged' issues."

Rappler is still trying to obtain a copy of Bautista's response as of posting time. 

In a phone interview, a Comelec commissioner who refused to be named said of Bautista, "We expect him to shape up." 

The memo came after the May 9 elections, which have been perceived by watchdogs as more credible than previous polls.

Previously, however, conflicts already erupted in the Comelec, including a rift between Bautista and Guanzon. 

Back then, Bautista issued Guanzon a memo for filing an "unauthorized" comment on the case of then presidential bet Senator Grace Poe before the Supreme Court. Guanzon responded by attacking Bautista for allegedly "showing partisanship" in addressing cases filed by Poe.

The Comelec eventually resolved this issue on January 12, with Arthur Lim saying in a news briefing: "Your commission is firmly in good hands. We are united and focused to do the mandate that the Constitution has given to us." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. 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.

image