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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Poll chief AWOL

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COMMISSION on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista left for Japan Thursday without authority from the en banc, leaving the six other commissioners with unsigned procurement documents and resolutions piled up, a poll official said Sunday.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said Bautista did not follow the standard procedure for taking a vacation leave, which calls for the appointment of an acting chairman by the en banc while he is away.

“Chairman Bautista did not have en banc authority to travel abroad and thus the en banc was not able to designate an acting chair,” Guanzon said in a text message.

Guanzon expressed frustration that the Comelec could not start preparing for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October because Bautista was not around.

File photo shows Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista before the May 9 elections. His fellow commissioners have issued a memo decrying his alleged ‘failure of leadership.’  Bautista flew to Japan Thursday without authority from the Comelec en banc, leaving nobody in charge.

“There are documents still not signed, including notices of awards to suppliers of election materials, thus payments are delayed,” she said.

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She said the en banc wanted to appoint Commissioner Christian Robert Lim as acting chairman, but Lim refused because Bautista had not brought up the need for a temporary turnover of tasks.

Earlier, all six commissioners issued a memo that decried Bautista’s “failure of leadership” and took him to task for the delayed payment of teachers who served as board of election inspectors, and the costs incurred in his failed mall voting project. 

Bautista played down the memo, which raised 15 “grave concerns,” and said he was able to talk to some of the commissioners about these issues.

Malacañang on Sunday said it would leave it up to the Comelec to solve its internal problems, since the agency is a constitutional body independent from the Palace.

“Most of the issues they are citing are  internal affairs. So it would be better that they be the ones to discuss about it,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on state-run radio dzRB.

In their memo, the commissioners also criticize Bautista for failing to act swiftly after the Comelec website was hacked and a huge voter database was stolen.

Bautista, they said, declined to assume direct control and supervision of the task force created after the incident, “asserting that he is constrained by his limited information technology knowledge.”

But the commissioners said the Comelec chairman is mandated to direct and supervise operations and administration—including the IT department.

“The lackadaisical attitude towards complying with relevant laws fosters a suspicion of a complete abandon of the functions and duties of a head of agency,” the memo read. “Further, even the National Privacy Commission has aired its complaint of the difficulty as well as slow pace in obtaining documents from the commission relevant to their investigation,” the commissioners wrote.

The commissioners hit Bautista for unexplained absences or the refusal to attend crucial en banc meetings days before the May 9 elections, saying this was a sign of “misplaced priorities.”

They also deplored his unilateral declarations to the press on matters that the en banc should have discussed and decided, such as his statement that barangay elections need to be postponed.

“This is not a solitary incident. The chairman should not grant interviews on matters not yet decided by the commission en banc. He must make clear that his personal opinion is his alone and not attributable to the entire organization,” the commissioners said.

Bautista said he is ready to answer the complaints raised against him, and added that 99.8 percent of election workers had already been paid. With Sandy Araneta

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