Duterte to fill 3 Comelec vacancies
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.