Probe will proceed despite Bautista’s resignation – Sen. Escudero

admin   •   October 25, 2017   •   4010

IMAGE_UNTV_NEWS_102517_Escudero

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Committee on Banks and Financial Institutions and Currencies will continue its investigation into an alleged ill-gotten wealth of resigned Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista.

The committee’s chairman Senator Francis Escudero said it will now be easier for them to invite Bautista since he no longer has immunity from the suit after leaving government service.

Escudero explained that the former Comelec chief left many unanswered questions during the previous hearing of the Senate.

These include the senator’s notes, the discovery of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Anti-Fraud Division of suspicious transactions in the Luzon Development Bank.

The NBI claimed to have discovered accounts of the companies sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government under the leadership of Bautista.

“According to regulation, all deposits of an agency and companies owned by the government sequestered or not, should be put to the government depository bank, landbank or DBP. It’s better to ask chairman Bautista why he decides to transfer all of it there,” said Escudero.

The senator said that if the former poll chief fails to answer the questions during the next senate inquiry, he might face multiple charges.

“If he could not explain, where the money comes from, his unexplained wealth, he may face graft or plunder,” said Escudero.

Bautista previously said he was ready to face and answer all allegations being thrown against him particularly by his wife, Mrs. Patricia Bautista. — Nel Maribojoc | UNTV News & Rescue

COMELEC has the power to postpone elections under certain circumstances —election law expert

Marje Pelayo   •   September 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Under specific circumstances, the Commission of Elections (COMELEC) has the authority or power to delay or postpone the conduct of an election.

This was clarified by election law expert Atty. George Erwin Garcia amid issues on a possible postponement of the 2022 national elections should the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic persist.

“COMELEC even has the power to postpone the elections or declare failure based on the Omnibus Election Code,” he added citing provisions of the law.

Section 5 of the Omnibus Election Code  states: When for any serious cause such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes of such a nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision, the Commission, motu proprio or upon a verified petition by any interested party, and after due notice and hearing, whereby all interested parties are afforded equal opportunity to be heard, shall postpone the election therein to a date which should be reasonably close to the date of the election not held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect but not later than thirty days after the cessation of the cause for such postponement or suspension of the election or failure to elect.

News of a possible postponement of the 2022 election came after Pampanga Representative Mikey Arroyo asked the poll body if it would consider such a move given that the country is currently facing a health crisis.

“No matter how prepared we are, it will cause a serious dent on our health situation. Would you consider it?,” he asked representatives from COMELEC during Congress’ hearing on the agency’s proposed budget on Thursday (September 24).

“Has the thought that you’ll propose to postpone elections, has that ever triggered in your minds?” the lawmaker further asked.

In response, COMELEC Commissioner Sheriff Abas said the postponement of election is beyond the agency’s responsibility.

“I think  wala sa call namin sa COMELEC iyan (I think that matter is not COMELEC’s call). It’s the call of both the chambers of the House and the president,” Abas said. 

Commenting on the issue, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin claimed that to cancel the election is an act of treason while former COMELEC commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal Sr.  said there is no reason to postpone the elections because other countries have been able to conduct it despite the challenges in the middle of the pandemic.

To clarify the matter, Atty. Garcia explained that the elections can be carried out before or after the second week of May as mandated by the Constitution as long as there is a law passed by the Congress.

“Pwede iyang ilipat sa ibang araw man lang o ibang linggo, pwede ngang ibang buwan ilipat (It can be postponed to a later date or week or even month). Bakit (Why)? Kasi ang nakalagay (because it says) ‘as may be provided by law,'” Garcia said.

“But it needs a constitutional amendment if the elections will be done beyond the elected officials’ term,” he added.

Garcia explained that by conducting an election outside or beyond the deadline or the term of office is therefore extending the term of office of the incumbent.

Such a case is prohibited or is not allowed by law, he said, because of what the law calls as hold-over capacity and fixed term of elected officials.

For now, Garcia said, what is important is for the Comelec to prepare for the elections and this includes voter registration. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

DBM slashes COMELEC’s proposed budget for 2021 by more than half

Marje Pelayo   •   September 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is asking Congress to increase its budget for next year as it prepares ahead for the 2022 presidential election.

The poll body initially proposed a budget of almost P23.7 billion for next year, but this has been slashed by more than half.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved only P10.41 billion for COMELEC’s 2021 budget.

According to COMELEC Spokesperson Director James Jimenez, a huge portion of the slashed amount was intended for measures that will be adopted during the 2022 national elections amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The COMELEC was planning to rent additional vote counting machines.

“Iyong gagawin namin sa present budget, kung iyan lang ang maibigay sa amin, is ire-refurbish namin (What we will do with the present budget — if that’s the only amount we have — is to refurbish),” COMELEC Chairman Sheriff Abas.

Around P65.4 million voters, an increase of 13.76 percent from last elections, are expected to vote in 2022.

“Kapag marami ang botante at nagsisiksikan sila sa isang makina, medyo unsafe iyan pagdating sa situwasyon natin ngayon na pandemya (If there is a huge voter turnout and everyone flocks to one machine, that’s unsafe given the current situation in this pandemic), ” explained COMELEC Spokesperson Director James Jimenez.

Based on COMELEC’s plan for the elections, the number of voters inside precincts would be reduced from 12 to 5 to maintain safe physical distance.

COMELEC is also mulling on holding the election for more than one day to reduce the number of voters coming to the venues.

The online filing of candidacy is also being considered.

Meanwhile, Agusan del Norte representative Lawrence Fortun is worried about the turnout in the 2022 elections if the poll body fails to convince Filipino voters that it is safe to go to polling precincts physically.

“If COMELEC cannot assure our voters of their safety, considering that electoral activities really draw large crowds, many might not be able to vote,” Fortun said,

The poll body is also waiting for election-related bills to address fears of virus transmission.

These include early voting for persons with disability and senior citizens, as well as voting via mail.

COMELEC also plans to apply the best practices in other countries who have held elections in the middle of the pandemic, such as South Korea.

There is also a bill that aims to push for hybrid elections.

However, COMELEC estimates that P50 billion to P60 billion will be needed for hybrid elections. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

NBI exec, brother face raps over alleged pastillas scam

Robie de Guzman   •   September 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has filed graft and extortion complaints against its official and his brother from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) over the alleged ‘pastillas scheme.’

Atty. Joshua Paul Capiral, NBI’s legal assistance chief, and his brother, Christopher John, an officer at the BI’s medical section, underwent inquest proceedings at the Department of Justice on Wednesday morning.

The brothers are facing extortion complaints under the Revised Penal Code, and violation of the Anti-Graft Practices Act, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and the Executive Order No. 608 which established the national security clearance system for government personnel with access to classified matters.

The two were arrested in an entrapment operation on Monday night for allegedly receiving bribes from individuals implicated in the pastillas scheme in exchange for exclusion from the charges.

Nineteen Immigration officers allegedly linked to the pastillas scheme are currently facing charges filed by the NBI at the Office of the Ombudsman last month.

The modus was called pastillas, derived from a Filipino sweet and sticky dessert, because the bribe money that some personnel receive were wrapped in paper.

The scheme allegedly takes advantage of Chinese casino high-rollers and offshore gaming workers who wish to be escorted to dodge the immigration screening process for a fee.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has ordered a reinvestigation into the pastillas scheme.

“Considering that the NBI investigation appeared to have been tainted, I will order a reinvestigation of the so-called ‘pastillas’ racket involving some unscrupulous BI employees,” he said in message to reporters.

Meanwhile, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente welcomed the development and assured support for the drive to cleanse the agency of corruption.

Morente also vowed to continue its campaign against corruption activities within the agency.

“We will continue to pursue our campaign against BI personnel engaged in corrupt activities in coordination with NBI and other law enforcement agencies in support of President Duterte’s desire to cleanse the agency,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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