House junks impeach-Bautista move
THE House of Representatives’ committee on justice on Wednesday dismissed outright the impeachment complaint leveled against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista.
Reacting immediately, Bautista said he was considerably relieved after the House panel dismissed the impeachment complaint filed against him and maintained that corruption allegations against him were “fabricated and baseless.”
“I welcome the decision of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice to dismiss the impeachment complaint filed against me. I would like to thank the Committee and the House leadership for upholding the rule of law and for their objectivity and fairness,” the poll chief said in a press briefing at the Comelec office.
“It’s business as usual. Work at the Comelec will continue. We will perform our mandate in respect of the credible conduct of elections,” Bautista said.
The impeachment complaint against Bautista was based on his wife Patricia Bautista’s allegations that her estranged husband had P1 billion in unexplained wealth.
Bautista said he could now focus on the preparations for the village and Sangguniang Kabataan elections scheduled for next month.
Voting 2-26, the committee chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali declared the complaint filed by lawyers Ferdinand Topacio and Jacinto Paras who sought the ouster of Bautista over his alleged P1-billion ill-gotten wealth and alleged non-disclosure of a truthful Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.
Bautista’s estranged wife Patricia remains optimistic however her husband will be held accountable for the acts she has alleged against him.
“As I said before, we remain undeterred. This is just the beginning, and this is a bump on the road. But as in all things, we remain committed,” Patricia told reporters in an ambush interview at the House of Representatives.
Patricia attended the House panel hearing on the impeachment complaint against Bautista, where she was accompanied by her lawyer, Lorna Kapunan.
Patricia had accused her husband of possessing unexplained wealth amounting to nearly P1 billion.
Her allegations became a basis of the impeachment complaint filed by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, where they accused Bautista of betrayal of public trust for failing to properly disclose his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
In the interview, Patricia admitted she was disappointed, but expected the impeachment complaint would be dismissed.
“Obviously [I’m disappointed], but as Congressman [Harry Roque] said, it is something that is expected. Because again from my experience, as Andy said, he knows many different people in very high places. And this is proof of that,” she said.
Reps. Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu and Harry Roque of Kabayan Party-list, endorsers of the complaint, voted for the motion to declare the complaint sufficient in form.
“The decision of the committee to declare the complaint not sufficient in form renders this complaint dismissed,” Umali said.
The lawmakers who voted against the motion of Garcia said the impeachment complaint failed to comply with the proper verification form.
“The decision to render this complaint as insufficient in form will stand. It should be supported,” Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado said.
“It is the rule of the House, it should pass the requirements of verification,” he added.
Umali earlier said the complainants had used an improper verification form that failed to state their common knowledge of the charges they alleged were based on authentic records.
During the hearing, Garcia objected to the decision of the panel to kill outright the Bautista impeachment complaint as she filed a motion to have it returned to the Secretary General’s Office to allow the complainants to correct the “defect” of the complaint.
But Garcia’s motion was lost.
Roque also lamented the decision of the House justice panel to junk the complaint against Bautista for alleged betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution over allegations of ill-gotten wealth.
He attempted to convince the committee members that the evidence contained in the complaint against Bautista were enough to warrant a continuation of impeachment proceeding against the poll chief.
Roque made a motion to adopt a substitute verification that seeks to correct the defects in the filed impeachment complaint. But the motion was lost.
The “defect” noted by the House justice committee in the Bautista complaint was the same infirmity cited in second impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and so it was also dismissed for insufficiency of form.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an opposition, said the Bautista complaint would not prosper.
He said the committee must apply the same standards in junking the Sereno impeachment complaint.
Lagman stressed there were other fora to find out the truth with regard to allegations hurled against Bautista, like the Ombudsman and the regular courts.
Bautista said the Comelec would finish the printing of ballots for next month’s barangay and SK elections by first week of October.
He assured that printing of ballots would end and the delivery of ballots to the provinces nationwide would start as soon as possible.
The total number of ballots to be printed for the Oct. 23 barangay elections is 43,743,958. For the SK ballots, 15,804,452 ballots are needed to be printed.
Amid moves to postpone the local elections, Bautista said the Comelec had spent P500 million for the printing of ballots.
He said the Comelec was still waiting for the postponement bill.
The House of Representatives already approved in final reading the postponement of polls while the Senate has yet to approve a similar bill filed by Senator Vicente Sotto III.