Philippines chief poll administrator quits

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Manila: Elections commission chair Andres Bautista has resigned after months in the limelight amid allegations by his own wife that he had engaged in shady deals and despite successfully fighting off an impeachment attempt.

“It is with deep sadness that I am informing you about my decision to resign as the Chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) by the end of the year,” Bautista said in a letter he submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday morning.

Bautista, who formally steps down as Comelec chair at the end of the year, said his main reason for his resignation was to “give more time to his family.”

“I believe that this is the right time to step down given the postponement of the Barangay (village) and SK (Sanguniang Kabataan or Youth Council) elections. This was not an easy decision. But my family, especially my children, need me now more than ever,” he said.

Duterte had cancelled the two grassroots vote scheduled on October 23 saying that pushing through with the elections could affect the electoral results since the government is not yet finished with its campaign against drugs. The two polls had been moved instead to May 2018.

Bautista expressed gratitude to Comelec employees for supporting him. “Amid the hurtful, baseless, and malicious accusations hurled against me, most of you never left my side,” he said.

The Comelec chief had presided over conduct of the 2016 presidential elections that resulted in the election of Duterte.

“The May 2016 automated National and Local elections is a testament to our collective sacrifices and teamwork, as it was hailed by the independent local and foreign observers as the best managed and most credible in our electoral history,” Bautista said.

The controversy involving Bautista started in August when his own wife, Patricia Paz Bautista, publicly accused him of amassing at least a billion pesos from supposed shady deals as chief of the poll administration body.

Patricia said her husband — the couple had since been estranged — had hidden from her the money.

She said the assets and bank deposits kept by her husband were not declared in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), which is required by law from government officials.

“I understand that Andy (Andres Bautista), being a high ranking public official, should be accountable and transparent to the public about all these finances, properties and money which, obviously, he was not,” she had said then.

But the siblings of Bautista said that the money kept in his bank account were not solely his, but were part of accounts that the family maintains.

In late August, an attempt to constitutionally oust Bautista was set in motion at the House of Representatives. The grounds for calling for his impeachment by Representatives Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio were culpable violations of the constitution, betrayal of public trust and wrongful declaration of SALN.

The House Justice panel on September 20, however, rejected the impeachment complaint for being “insufficient in form.”

Senator Franklin Drilon said he believes that Bautista’s decision to quit was right.

“I think that was the right move. Anyway he is no longer facing an impeachment complaint and therefore, it cannot be said that he is avoiding impeachment. It is the best thing that he can do so that after he quits office, he can take care of his problems. No one can say that he’s using the power of his office to influence the outcome of the case,” Drilon said.