MANILA - "Smile na lang."
This was the answer of Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista when asked whether he thought it was fair that an issue from the previous elections was brought up by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile during the hearing of the Commission of Appointments (CA) at the Senate Wednesday which led to the deferment of his confirmation.
Speaking to the media Wednesday afternoon, Bautista admitted that he was disappointed at the turn of events.
During the CA hearing, Enrile grilled Bautista about the failure of the Comelec in 2013 to transmit the results of about 18,400 precincts, which involved roughly around 12 million votes. This concern was communicated to the Senate by the Parish Pastoral Council on Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
The matter happened during the term of then Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes. Enrile suspended the proceedings because he wanted Bautista to submit a written report to the Commission first.
"Well medyo disappointed but at the same time alam ko rin naman na kasama ito sa proseso ng confirmation," Bautista said. "Hinihingan kami ng information tungkol sa 2013 elections. Of course wala pa ako noon pero ibibigay natin yung information na hinihingi ni Senator Enrile."
Bautista reiterated that they have already answered the issue to the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee and to the PPCRV. The poll body explained that though there may have been a failure of transmission in several precincts, the results have all been manually uploaded to the central server. Bautista added that all the 12 million votes have since been accounted for.
"I spoke to her (PPCRV chair Henrietta De Villa) and she told me that basically all the points that have been raised there have been addressed by Comelec," he said.
The chairman added that the low transmission rate of 77% during the 2013 elections was one of the performance indicators that the poll body wants to improve upon in the 2016 elections.
The Comelec is set to meet next Monday with representatives of telecom giants Globe and Smart to ensure that there will be a higher transmission rate for the next polls.
Another issue raised against Bautista during the hearing was the allegation raised by Philcomsat officials Lin Illusorio Bildner and Jose Ozamis. Bildner and Ozamis claimed that Bautista, during his stint as Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chair, wrongfully sought a seat on the board of the Philcomsat.
"To represent the government's 35% stake and after due consultations with the Office of the President and the Department of Finance, then (Privatization and Management Office) PMO chief Karen Singson and I were nominated to the PMO board. We were then elected to the board with the knowledge and assistance of current management. However, I was never invited to and hence has never attended even one board meeting. So I am completely surprised by Mr. Ozamis' assertion that during the Aquino administration PCGG intruded into and actively interfered in the business affairs of Philcomsat. That is simply a complete falsehood," Bautista said.
"I was not part of the PCGG during the relevant times complained by Bildner and Ozamis; and all that we have done from the moment that we assumed office in September 2010 was to faithfully discharge our mandate."
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, meanwhile, said it still is too early to say whether the deferment of the confirmation of Bautista and another commissioner, Sheriff Abas, could impact the preparations for the 2016 polls.
"Sa ngayon hindi pa naman ganun ka-critical, kumbaga suspended lang yung proceedings, so I'm guessing that can be rescheduled.
Also wala namang recess coming up. But if recess comes and he is not confirmed there will be a need for reappointment," Jimenez said.