House threatens Comelec budget cut after Bautista skips hearing

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives committee on appropriations threatened to cut the 2018 budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) if its chief would skip yet another hearing.

On Wednesday, August 23, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista skipped the poll body's budget hearing for "personal reasons."

This was the second House hearing that Bautista had skipped since his ex-wife made allegations of undeclared wealth and the prospects of impeachment loomed.

Aside from not appearing to defend the poll body's proposed 2018 budget Wednesday, he also didn't show up when a House panel tackled the possible postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections. (READ: Are we postponing barangay and SK elections or not? P500M is at stake)

The Comelec has a proposed budget of P16.15 billion for 2018. (READ: Education, infra to get bulk of proposed 2018 nat'l budget)

Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles, chairperson of the House committee on appropriations, moved the poll body's session to Thursday, August 24, at 9 am. He said the committee did not receive a formal letter from Bautista explaining his absence.

According to Nograles, the rules of the House of Representatives require the head of the agency to be present during the budget hearing.

If Bautista fails to attend Thursday's hearing, the Comelec might "suffer the consequences," warned Nograles.

According to Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, who was present at the House, Bautista had to attend his child's counseling session.

Guanzon said the poll body understands Bautista's current situation but added that he has a responsibility to the public.

"We really.... I understand his personal predicament pero may mga responsibilidad tayo sa bayan (but we have responsibilities to the people we serve)," Guanzon told reporters.

"2018 is our preparation year for the elections. Sana hindi mabawasan ang budget namin (I hope our budget won't get cut)," she added.

Bautista's estranged wife Patricia had accused him of having nearly P1 billion in "unexplained wealth." (READ: The making of a scandal: Comelec chair Andy vs Patricia Bautista)

Bautista denied amassing ill-gotten wealth and sued his wife for robbery and extortion. The Comelec chief also said the controversy is unfair for their 4 children. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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