House panel approves ₱16.15B Comelec budget for 2018

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House committee on appropriations chair Rep. Karlo Nograles (left) told lawmakers not to ask about embattled Comelec chief Andy Bautista's impeachment complaint.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 24) — The House committee on appropriations approved on Thursday the proposed ₱16.15-billion Commission on Elections (COMELEC) budget for 2018.

COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautista led the commission in presenting the budget. The committee rescheduled the budget hearing for Thursday after Bautista did not attend the hearing on Wednesday for personal reasons.

Bautista said the proposed budget is mainly for preparations for the 2019 midterm elections, adding the commission is looking at all possible options for the conduct of efficient and clean elections.

Read: Comelec still exploring options for 2019 polls

Meanwhile, a data protection officer from the poll body said another "comeleaks" is unlikely because the poll body's website is now more secure with its co-hosting by the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

"Comeleaks" refers to the hacking of the COMELEC website in March 2016 ahead of the May elections. The breach exposed almost 77 million voter registration records.

No impeachment talk

None among the lawmakers asked about the impeachment complaint against Bautista filed a day earlier, after appropriations committee chair and Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles told lawmakers to avoid questions not related to the budget.

"I would like to ask that the members of the House limit your questions only to policy directions, the pertinent items in the budget of the COMELEC and let's refrain from asking questions pertaining to anything that has to do with the current impeachment complaint that has been filed with the House of Representatives," he said.

Read: Impeachment complaint filed against COMELEC chairman

Bautista is under fire after his estranged wife filed a complaint alleging he had billions of pesos in unexplained wealth.

Read: COMELEC chair accused of unexplained wealth by estranged wife

Patricia Bautista also said her husband received commissions from Divina Law, the legal counsel of poll technology provider Smartmatic. This triggered speculation on the integrity of the 2016 elections.

Read: Solon: Bautista's 'receipt of fee for Smartmatic referral' casts doubt on 2016 polls

Bautista told CNN Philippines on Aug. 7 the accusations were a form of blackmail.

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

CNN Philippines Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.