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Delivering on their promise

The congressmen warned us this would happen. It’s our fault that we didn’t believe them because we thought that they wouldn’t actually perpetrate this horrible miscarriage of justice.

The mistakenly-named House committee on justice threw out the impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista on a technicality yesterday. The panel ruled in an overwhelming 26-2 vote that the private complainants in the case did not have personal knowledge of the charges leveled against Bautista and used the wrong form to file their verified complaint, besides.

What this means is that Bautista, who can only be removed by impeachment, is inoculated from further attempts to sack him for an entire year. Or, in the words of Bautista himself in reaction to the verdict, with no apparent irony, it is going to be “business as usual” at the Commission.

Oh, there’s the small matter of the plenary voting that committee chairman Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali said would still have to take place. But given the lopsided majority by which the panel ruled, I think it’s safe to say, as Umali also said, that the complaint is already “deemed dismissed,” not just on the committee level but by the whole House.

Speaking of Umali, whose brother Gov. Alfonso “Boy” Umali is a close associate of former President Noynoy Aquino and national treasurer of Aquino’s Liberal Party, he is not the only Yellow who figured prominently in yesterday’s decision. Majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas (who proposed exempting congressmen from arrest for traffic violations) of Ilocos Norte and minority leader Rep. Edcel Lagman (who still proudly wears his LP colors) were also instrumental in junking the case against Bautista.

Which only goes to show that the Liberals (or the Liberals-still, even if they are no longer officially affiliated with the party) continue to control Congress. And because Bautista may be in possession of information that will reveal how the LP rigged last year’s elections to favor the members of the old, discredited pro-Aquino party, they will certainly not be in any mood to impeach the elections boss.

But no one outside of the members of the justice committee will be able to say why they let Bautista off the hook, despite the preponderance of evidence against him. And because Congress is such a small, entitled and gangster-like fraternity, they will probably never tell.

For instance, they will never bother to explain why they didn’t just gather the requisite signatures of at least a third of the House that will allow the transmittal of the complaint directly to the Senate, which will convene into an impeachment court without passing through the Umali committee or the House plenary. Both Umali and Fariñas, after all, agreed to this use of a “creeping impeachment” method when they prosecuted the impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato Corona five years ago.

They will never say why they did not accept the substitute verification form that cured the infirmities of the original complaint. If the committee members had only allowed the rectification, they would have no choice but to deal with the merits (or substance) of the complaint, instead of using a technicality to throw it out.

The Umali panel cannot convince us that it was just using the same method employed in the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno when almost everyone believes that the panel was merely scared that Bautista might expose their own individual victories. And not just those Yellow congressmen but of certain LP senators and even Vice President Leni Robredo.

But, like I said, we were told beforehand that the Umali committee had already decided to throw out the complaint and would not hear of any move to fix the infirmities it saw, for reasons only the panel really knows. And now Bautista will have one more year to carry on as before and to prepare for his defense next year, assuming he is once again impeached then.

There is no reason to believe that he will be impeached, however. Bautista simply knows where all the bodies were buried in last year’s election—and Congress has every reason to keep those bodies where they are.

Congress also knows that removing Bautista, short of assassination, can only be done through impeachment. And that is how deals with the devils in the Batasan are made.

* * *

One of the people made happy by the travesty of justice committed by the Umali committee yesterday is University of Santo Tomas law dean Nilo Divina, who is currently doing his best to protect himself in the aftermath of the hazing death of law school freshman Horacio Tomas Castillo III. Divina dodged a major bullet when Bautista’s impeachment trial was dismissed because his law firm, Divina Law, had been dragged into the Comelec scandal after Bautista allegedly referred (for a fat commission) the outfit to represent the poll body’s automation contractor, the always-suspicious Venezuela-based IT provider Smartmatic.

Divina is a member of the Aegis Juris fraternity of the UST Faculty of Civil Law, as the law school is also known. In fact, his fraternity had used his name in order to recruit neophytes, who were promised all sorts of intervention by the dean if they joined his frat. 

Let’s see if Divina’s luck will hold in the Castillo case, where he cannot count on corrupt, cheating lawmakers to save him.

Topics: Congressmen , House committee on justice , Impeachment complaint , Commission on Elections , Chairman Andres Bautista , Delivering on their promise
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