October 21, 2017

Palace hands off on Bautista impeachment

12 October 2017, 10:38 | Glen Norman

MANILA. Commission on Elections Chair Juan Andres Bautista

MANILA. Commission on Elections Chair Juan Andres Bautista

For Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, the decision of the House leadership to impeach Bautista was totally unnecessary.

He cited Section 11 of Rule III of the House Rules on Impeachment, which stated that the decision of the House to overturn the committee report presupposes that the recommendation is based on the insufficiency of the complaint, lack of sufficient grounds or absence of probable cause.

Bautista is being accused of neglect of duty that resulted in the hacking of voters' personal information, allowing automated election machine provider Smartmatic to tinker with the script of the "transparency" server that broadcast the 2016 election results, and hiding almost P1 billion in ill-gotten wealth as alleged by his estranged wife, Patricia Paz.

Hours before the House voted to proceed with his impeachment, Bautista announced his resignation effective December 31, 2017.

An immediate resignation by Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista could have avoided an impeachment vote, a ranking lawmaker said Wednesday.

Endorsers of the impeachment complaint, Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, said Bautista could still withdraw his resignation and enjoy a one-year immunity from impeachment if the House did not reverse the justice committee decision.

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"However, we respect his decision and that we believe that he was compelled by higher reasons and the welfare of his children in coming up with his final decision to resign by the end of the year", they said.

"After all, Bautista, in his short stint as Comelec chairman, had demonstrated his honest efforts to protect the integrity of our election as evidenced by the conduct of the 2016 elections which was hailed by independent and foreign observers as the best managed and most credible election in our country", he said.

"For one, it will enable the Comelec to act as one (all Commissioners, Directors and rank-and-file employees) and purposely fulfill its mandate under the 1987 Constitution", said PPCRV chairperson and former Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento. President Duterte himself has also threatened to have Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales impeached.

Bautista stood pat on his decision to step down from office at the end of the year.

"My resignation letter has already been filed with the President. The President can not (also) appoint without vacancy", Castillano said in an interview with reporters on Thursday.

Pimentel at the same time assured his colleagues Bautista's trial won't interfere with legislative work, particularly deliberations on the P3.8-trillion national budget for 2018 and the tax reform bill, a priority measure.

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On why his resignation was not irrevocable, he said, "Out of respect to the appointing authority, I didn't use that word". It was just yesterday, so let's give him time to decide on it.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan on Wednesday said there was no more need to hold an impeachment trial as Bautista had resigned. He refused to answer a question on whether committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Mindoro Oriental should resign.

He also said the House decision to send the complaint against Bautista to the Senate for trial was "premature".

He said the only goal of the impeachment proceeding is to remove an impeachable official, and Bautista's resignation would deem the process moot.

However, he noted, he was also prepared to stay if President Duterte decides to set aside his resignation.

"It will mean more time for Chairman Andy Bautista to bond with his children". I have not seen any formal letter of resignation.

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