The verbal tussle between Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chair Andres Bautista and Commissioner Rowena Guanzon has been generating headlines since it erupted last January 7. This post will look back at how it all began:
December 22 – Various media organizations began reporting that night that the COMELEC en banc has voted to affirm the decisions made by its first and second divisions disqualifying Poe. Both Bautista and Guanzon confirmed the leak to Rappler. Understandable, Poe’s camp blasted this blatant breach of protocol.
December 23 – The COMELEC officially promulgated its decision disqualifying Poe from seeking the presidency. Five commissioners, Al Parreño, Luie Guia, Arthur Lim, Rowena Guanzon, and Sheriff Abas, voted against Poe on both cases.
As per COMELEC rules, Poe only has five days or until December 28 to secure a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court (SC). Otherwise, the decision will be final and that she will be excluded from the roster of candidates printed on the ballot.
December 28 – Poe’s campaign went to the SC to challenge COMELEC’s ruling against her. Her team also sought for a temporary restraining order against the disqualification.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno granted her request for TRO later that day. The oral arguments had been set for January 19, with the COMELEC given ten days or until January 7 to comment on Poe’s petition.
January 4 – In a comment filed before the SC, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) announced that it will be defending the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s decision declaring Poe a natural-born Filipino citizen. Parenthetically, the OSG likewise announced that it will not be involved with Poe’s case against the COMELEC.
January 7 – As required by SC, Commissioner Guanzon filed a 73-page comment defending COMELEC’s decision to disqualify Poe. However …
January 8 – It turns out that Guanzon wasn’t authorized to file anything on COMELEC’s behalf. In a sternly-worded memorandum, Chairman Bautista asked her: “Under whose authority was the comment filed?” He added: “I find these acts not only irregular but personally disrespectful.”
Guanzon explained that she was compelled to act on her own because otherwise, they won’t be able to meet SC’s deadline for COMELEC to submit a comment which might make them lose the case by default. “Anong gusto niya? Matalo kami sa Supreme Court?” she said in an interview on Unang Hirit.
For his part, Bautista insisted that there’s no need to rush because he received information that the SC has extended the deadline for them to file a comment from January 7 to 12. Guanzon denies any knowledge of this.
January 11 – In compliance with the extended deadline given by the SC, the COMELEC yesterday filed another comment defending its decision to disqualify Poe from the presidential race. The document was signed by Bautista and all six commissioners of the poll body. It however remains unclear what will happen to the legal brief filed by Guanzon last week.
COMMENTARY: It is very alarming to see COMELEC officials slamming each other in a very public manner just like typical politicians. Clearly, both Bautista and Guanzon committed mistakes here:
1) If the Supreme Court really extended the deadline to January 12, then Bautista should have told everyone about it instead of keeping the information to himself.
2) Bautista or any of his associates should not have leaked his memo to the media. On this regard, Guanzon is right in asserting that the matter could have been better discussed private.
3) Meanwhile, Guanzon is wrong to assert that she is not a subordinate to Bautista. While it is technically true, she must bear in mind that Bautista is the primus inter pares (first among equals) within COMELEC and that the agency works as a collegial body.
4) What is the point of going on a media blitz to slam Bautista?