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Enrile warns Comelec chief may not be confirmed

Marvin Sy - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The confirmations of Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista and Comelec Commissioner Sheriff Abas were deferred by the Commission on Appointments (CA) yesterday due to questions raised by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on the conduct of the 2013 midterm polls.

Facing the CA for the first time since President Aquino appointed him to the Comelec last May, Bautista was directed by Enrile to produce the poll body’s response to the findings made by Parish Pastoral Council fo Responsible Voting chairperson Henrietta de Villa about the conduct of the 2013 elections.

Enrile said the findings of De Villa were contained in a letter dated June 3, 2013 that was addressed to Bautista’s predecessor Sixto Brillantes, a copy of which was “given to me in secret.”

“I will require you to submit a report to this commission before we confirm you because this involves a case of 18,486 precincts in the country during that election, representing about 12 million voters, which did not have any electronic or manual count of votes all over the country and all over the world, including the overseas voters of the country,” Enrile said.

“So I would like to know if the Comelec did any disposition of this report and why it was not published to the public at that time. If you cannot produce that information to us, I will tell you now you will not be confirmed here,” he added.

Bautista explained that the transmission of results from the precincts in 2013 was only 77 percent, but the remaining 23 percent were manually uploaded.

“The allegedly missing results were not missing but simply not electronically transmitted. They were manually uploaded into the CCS (Consolidation and Canvassing System) in accordance with published rules, in accordance with RA 9369 (Automated Election System Law),” Bautista said.

He said that the Comelec response to De Villa’s concerns has been submitted to the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System.

Bautista expressed disappointment over the CA’s deferment of his confirmation.

“It’s a bit disappointing, but at the same time I also know that this is part of the process of confirmation,” he told Comelec reporters.

The poll chief, however, assured the people that this development would not stop him from continuing with his work, especially since the May 2016 polls are barely eight months away.

Bautista added he was prepared to submit Enrile’s requirements and answer questions concerning PCGG issues.

During his confirmation hearing, Bautista was also confronted with opposition to his appointment that was raised by Jose Ma. Ozamiz and Erlinda Ilusorio-Bildner.

Ozamiz and Bildner told the CA that they were there as representatives of the Philcomsat group of companies to oppose the confirmation of Bautista because of his actions when he was still chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).

The two were part of the Bildner-Victor Africa group that engaged the group of Enrique Locsin and Manuel Nieto in an ownership squabble over Philcomsat Holdings Corp. (PHC), a listed company, and its parent companies Philcomsat and Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp. (POTC).

In a statement read before the CA Committee on Constitutional Commissions, Ozamiz revived the claims of his group about the “looting and plundering” by the PCGG of the coffers of Philcomsat group of companies, which he said amounted to P2 billion.

Ozamiz said that the PCGG, under the leadership of Bautista in 2011, disregarded the previous decisions by the courts and the PCGG itself taking Philcomsat out of sequestration and consequently, removing the agency from the governance of those companies.

“My opposition is based on Chairman Bautista’s professional actions and omissions. This constitutes a pattern of behavior antithetical to the role of a public servant, particularly one who will be in a very powerful position of authority to determine the suitability of candidates for election to public office and to determine the outcome of the elections and adjudicate electoral contests,” Ozamiz said.

Bautista said the Philcomsat complaint had been dismissed by the ombudsman in September 2013.

He noted that he was not yet part of the PCGG “during the relevant times” mentioned in the complaint. The same goes for Comelec, which he was tasked to lead only last April.

In a privilege speech he delivered on Jan. 29, 2008, Enrile revealed that he subscribed to 6.1 percent of the capitalization of POTC during the administration of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

The shares of Enrile have since been transferred to his daughter Katrina, who sits on the board of all Philcomsat companies.

In that privilege speech, Enrile accused the nominees of the PCGG to Philcomsat of “wanton and unjustifiable looting, pillaging and plundering of the resources” of the companies. With Sheila Crisostomo

ACIRC

AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM

AUTOMATED ELECTION SYSTEM LAW

BAUTISTA

BILDNER-VICTOR AFRICA

CHAIRMAN BAUTISTA

COMELEC

DE VILLA

ENRILE

OZAMIZ

PHILCOMSAT

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