Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista was a no-show in Comelec’s budget briefing at the House of Representatives on Wednesday, prompting Congress to postpone the hearing on the proposed P16 billion budget of the poll body in 2018.
Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino represented Bautista during the hearing and cited the chairman’s reason for absence.
“The chairman will be meeting with the guidance counselor of his children, that’s why he couldn’t attend this meeting right now,” Tolentino told lawmakers.
Due to Bautista’s absence, the House Committee on Appropriation concluded that the budget hearing be suspended and reset on Thursday at 9 a.m.
Committee Chairperson Karlo Nograles said that Baustista has failed to give a formal letter informing that he will not be able attend the budget briefing.
But according to Tolentino, Bautista provided a memorandum stating that he is requesting the Senior Commissioner Robert Lim, or if he is unable to attend, Commissioner Al Pareño to lead the team that will be presenting.
The panel’s Vice Chairman Doy Leachon affirmed that a formal letter is needed, given that Baustista is dealing with national budget, particularly a constitutional body.
Leachon said that a budget hearing is one of the primary concern of the house for the whole year.
“So at the very least there must be a letter of authority coming from the head of the agency to represent the agency,” he said.
House appropriations committee chair Karlo Nograles said that there might be consequences if Bautista and his poll body will not attend the rescheduled hearing.
“We expect Chairman Bautista and all commissioners to be present as well as the executive director and other officials, if the chairman will not show himself, then you may suffer the consequences,” he said.
Meanwhile, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon admitted on Wednesday that she advised Bautista to take a leave from the post.
“Yes, I have told him since day one when this problem became public that my advice is for him to take a leave before he decides to resign or whatever so that we could have a smooth functioning in the Comelec,” Guanzon said.
Guanzon added that she’s been urging Bautista to file an official leave for the sake of the agency.
“Now we’re in limbo. Who is the head of agency? He is in the country, and he has not filed an official leave of absence or whatever, so Comelec is suffering,” she said.
She added, “I understand his personal predicament but we have priorities for the country and Comelec.”
Guanzon expressed her concern on Comelec’s budget for 2019 elections, “Hopefully, our budget will not be reduced.”