Comelec’s Bautista resigning by yearend

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Comelec chairman Andres Bautista at a media forum where he confirmed his decision to resign by yearend. (photo by JV Arcena, News5)

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 4 – 2:25 p.m.) Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista said he is resigning his post “by the end of the year.”

Bautista disclosed his decision “with deep sadness” in a letter to “my Comelec family” dated Tuesday, October 11, that he posted both on his Twitter account.

He confirmed his decision at a media fprum, also Tuesday morning.

Kaninang umaga, ako ay naghain ng sulat ng pagbibitiw sa tanggapan ng ating Pangulo bilang (This morning, I submitted a letter of resignation to the office of our President as) chairman of (the) Commission on Elections effective December 31, 2017,” Bautista said.

Malacañang has apparently accepted Bautista’s offer to quit.

“We respect the decision of Chairman Andy Bautista. We wish him well,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in statement.

He told reporters he cited “personal reasons,” adding: “Siguro hindi naman kaila sa inyo ang hinaharap ko sa aking personal na buhay. Kung kaya’t minarapat ko na tama na ang aking anunsiyo na ihayag ang aking intent na mag-resign (I’m sure you all know what I am facing in my personal llife. Which is why I decided it is right to announce my intent to resign).”

The Comelec head has been embroiled in controversy after his estranged wife Patricia publicly accused him of amassing a hidden fortune and tried to have him impeached.

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, who earlier predated Bautista would resign if impeached, called the Comelec chief’s decision “an honorable exit given the furor that erupted following the rupture of the marital bond.”

Bautista said he wants to give President Rodrigo Duterte enough time to choose his replacement and ensure a “smooth and orderly transition.”

Asked if he had any  advice for his replacement, he replied: “Patience and perseverance.”

The Comelec chief said he was “ready to face the charges against me” and would consider these “isang pagkakataon para malinisan ang bahid na ibinato sa akin (an opportunity to cleanse the dirt hurled against me).”

He added that he did not want his personal problems to affect the Comelec.

“I don’t have regrets” with his Comelec stint, he said, adding that almost all the employees of the poll body “are good people, marangal, tapat sa tungkulin (honorable and true to their duties).”

Once he leaves, he said, “plano ko muna magpahinga at sabi ko nga (I plan to rest and like I said) I want to spend more quality time with my family.”

In his letter, Bautista thanked Comelec employees “for the love, prayers and support you have shown me, most especially during my most challenging times.”

“Amid the hurtful, baseless and malicious accusations hurled against me, most of you never left my side,” he added.

Bautista said “this is the right time to step down given the postponement of the Barangay and SK (Sangguniang Kabataan) elections.”

While admitting it was “not an easy decision,” he said, “my family, especially my children, need me now more than ever.”

He also credited Comelec employees’ “faithful help and constant support” for enabling him to “have served our Commission well and the Filipino people to the best of my ability,” citing the 2016 automated elections, which saw President Rodrigo Duterte victorious, that he said “was hailed by independent local and foreign observers as the best managed and most credible in our electoral history.”

Senator Franklin Drilon said resigning was the best decision Bautista could make.

He said stepping down would give the Comelec chair the time he needs to face his personal problems and, at the same time, so “no one can say that he’s using the power of his office to influence the outcome of the case.”

“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,” Drilon said.

“I congratulate Chairman Bautista for putting the interest of the Comelec as an institution ahead of his own,” Kabayan party-list Representative Harry Roque said, reacting to Bautista’s announcement.

“I hope that he sticks to his word and pushes through with his resignation. I also pray that with his departure from Comelec, the Commission will be shielded from further controversy,” he added.

With Bautista’s decision, Roque said, “I will no longer support the reversal of the House Committee on Justice report on the dismissal of the impeachment complaint against him.”

At the same time, Roque said, “the cases filed against Chairman Bautista can now proceed,” singling out the alleged referral fees the Comelec head received from Smartmatic through the Divina law office.

He also urged Bautista “to desist from any signing any contract related to the 2019 midterm elections.” (with reports from Mae Anne Los Baños, News5 and Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon | Philippine News Agency)