Duterte to fill 3 Com­elec va­can­cies

The Philippine Star - - NEWS - By JESS DIAZ – With Eve­lyn Ma­cairan, Gil­bert Bay­oran, Jan­vic Ma­teo

Pres­i­dent Duterte will soon have to fill three va­can­cies in the seven-mem­ber Com­mis­sion on Elec­tions (Com­elec), Rep. Ron Salo of Kabayan said yes­ter­day.

He ex­plained that aside from Chair­man An­dres Bautista, whose res­ig­na­tion takes ef­fect on Dec. 31, Com­mis­sion­ers Arthur Lim and Chris­tian Robert Lim would end their terms on Feb. 2, 2018.

“So we have three va­can­cies to note. These va­can­cies are crit­i­cal as the coun­try pre­pares for the barangay and Sang­gu­ni­ang Ka­bataan elec­tions in May next year. If those va­can­cies are not yet filled by Fe­bru­ary 2018, then the Com­elec will have only four sit­ting mem­bers,” Salo said.

The law­maker pointed out that since the poll body func­tions through two di­vi­sions, the “quo­rum in one or two di­vi­sions could be af­fected by the va­can­cies and pend­ing cases in those di­vi­sions could hang in the bal­ance.”

“If one of those four re­main­ing mem­bers of the Com­elec hap­pens to be sick or goes on leave of ab­sence, the com­mis­sion en banc will have no quo­rum. (This pos­si­bil­ity) must be avoided to keep the Com­elec run­ning smoothly,” said Salo, a lawyer.

He stressed the need for timely ap­point­ments and urged the Pres­i­dent’s search com­mit­tee to start their work of look­ing for “com­pe­tent and eth­i­cally im­bued re­place­ments.”

The new Com­elec chair­man, he added, would serve Bautista’s un­ex­pired term, which ends on Feb. 2, 2022.

“I com­mend Chair­man Bautista for up­hold­ing pub­lic in­ter­est above his own, and for show­ing del­i­cadeza with his res­ig­na­tion. I wish him well in his fu­ture en­deav­ors,” Salo said.

Although Bautista has ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion, lawyer Lorna Ka­punan, coun­sel of his es­tranged wife Pa­tri­cia Cruz, said they would still be fil­ing crim­i­nal cases – in­clud­ing plun­der, bribery, graft, cor­rup­tion, money laun­der­ing and tax eva­sion – to make the Com­elec chief ac­count­able.

“The im­peach­ment will only re­move him from his po­si­tion. Crim­i­nal cases have to be filed against him,” she said, adding that they are just wait­ing for the Na­tional Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (NBI) to come out with a re­port based on the ev­i­dence that Cruz turned over to them.

Be­ing an im­peach­able of­fi­cial, the Com­elec chair­man is im­mune from suit. But cases can be filed against him once he steps down from his post on Dec. 31.

The embattled Bautista is also fac­ing im­peach­ment be­fore Congress af­ter 137 mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives voted to for­ward the com­plaint to the Se­nate that will act as an im­peach­ment court.

Although the NBI could be a com­plainant, Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Vi­tal­iano Aguirre II said he is leav­ing it up to Pa­tri­cia’s camp to file the cases.

“It is the com­plainants who will pur­sue (the case). We will just hear the case if it is filed be­fore the DOJ,” Aguirre added.

In a 10-page af­fi­davit filed with the NBI, Cruz claimed that Bautista has more than P300 mil­lion in sev­eral ac­counts with the Lu­zon De­vel­op­ment Bank, at least $12,778.30 with the Rizal Com­mer­cial Bank­ing Corp. (RCBC) and HK$948,358.97 with the Hong Kong and Shang­hai Bank­ing Corp. (HSBC).

She also al­leged that her hus­band has failed to de­clare in his state­ment of as­sets, li­a­bil­i­ties and net worth (SALN) two prop­er­ties: a con­do­minium unit at The Suite at One Boni­fa­cio High Street and another at The Dis­trict in San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia.

These are al­legedly aside from the in­vest­ments in Bau­man En­ter­prises Ltd., a com­pany es­tab­lished in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands; Man­tova In­ter­na­tional Ltd., a com­pany es­tab­lished in Brunei Darus­salam; and Mega Achieve Inc., a com­pany es­tab­lished in An­guilla.

Reynold Mun­sayac, Pres­i­den­tial Com­mis­sion on Good Gov­ern­ment act­ing chair­man, said his of­fice is will­ing to co­op­er­ate in the im­peach­ment process, although he de­clined to com­ment if the im­peach­ment case has enough ba­sis.

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