Commissioners to Comelec Chair: File a leave or resign

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 24) — Commissioners are urging Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista to take a leave of absence or resign.

In a press briefing Thursday, they said, "It is our consensus that Bautista can no longer effectively lead the Commission."

The commissioners released a statement urging Bautista to go on leave or resign "for his own sake, for the sake of his career, and, most importantly, for the sake of his family particularly his four innocent children."

The statement is signed by Commissioners Christian Robert S. Lim, Al A. Parreño, Luie Tito G. Guia, Arthur D. Lim, MA. Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon, and Sheriff M. Abas.

The statement said an impeachment order has been filed against Bautista, and the embattled chairman should devote his time, energy, and effort to his defense.

"The effects and consequences of impeachment and conviction by the Senate acting as Impeachment Court will be life-changing, if not catastrophic," the statement read.

Bautista was accused by his wife, Patricia, earlier this month of having unexplained wealth.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has also formed a special team to investigate Bautista and his wife.

READ: COMELEC chair accused of unexplained wealth by estranged wife

In her affidavit, Patricia accused her husband of "misleading and corrupt practices while in office."

Bautista denied the allegations, describing her accusation that he has amassed unexplained wealth as blackmail and an attempt to squeeze money out of him.

READ: COMELEC Chair cries blackmail and extortion by his estranged wife; ready to face probe

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre called on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the allegations against Bautista, saying what they found could be used as evidence in possible impeachment proceedings.

READ: Aguirre: NBI findings can be used as evidence vs Comelec chair

But not much information was gathered by the NBI because of the provisions of the bank secrecy law.

Read the full text of the COMELEC Commissioners' statement:

The undersigned COMELEC Commissioners, having at heart the best interest of the service, and motivated by a deep sense of duty to our people, are constrained to come out in the open to strongly and urgently urge Chair J. Andres D. Bautista to go on LEAVE OF ABSENCE for such period as may be necessary or RESIGN for his own sake, for the sake of his career, and, most importantly, for the sake of his family particularly his 4 innocent children.

An impeachment complaint has already been filed against him duly endorsed by three members of Congress, hence, will now go through the process of hearing and voting. The possibility of impeachment looms. If impeached, he will have to stand trial before the Senate. Before this, he and his wife have filed charges and counter-charges against each other. The grounds cited in the impeachment complaint as well as the accusations that have been hurled between the spouses are utterly serious and partake of possible criminal liability. The effects and consequences of impeachment and conviction by the Senate acting as Impeachment Court will be life-changing, if not catastrophic. Newspaper reports have it that the BIR and other agencies will conduct their own investigation, even as the Senate Committee on Finance is already on the move.

Proof that he needs to devote all his time to his defense and family was when he was absent in yesterday's hearing before the House Committee on Appropriations as he had to bring his 4 children to a guidance counselor. The Commission was threatened with a one-peso budget; luckily the Commissioners present were able to convince the Committee to reset the hearing to this morning, 24 August 2017.

In our view, while due process of law will take its normal course, Chair Bautista's defense will not only be spirited but arduous, to say the least. He will need to devote all his time, energy and effort.

Unfortunately, Chair Bautista has not made good on his promise that he would inform us soonest on his course of action of either a leave of absence or resignation. More than 2 weeks have elapsed since then.

With all due respect, it is our consensus that Chair Bautista can no longer effectively lead the Commission.

The time for him to let go has come.

Quezon City, Philippines, 24 August 2017.

[SIGNED]

Commissioners:

Christian Robert S. Lim
Al A. Parreño
Luie Tito G. Guia
Arthur D. Lim
Ma. Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon
Sheriff M. Abas