Impeachment case vs Bautista may be flawed
Lawmakers who endorsed the impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Andres Bautista were put in a quandary on Wednesday after it was revealed that the complainants may have used flawed wording in their verification document, putting the complaint at risk of being junked for insufficiency in form.
The issue cropped up on Wednesday after the House justice committee dismissed one of two impeachment complaints against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for being insufficient in form due to the language used in the verification sheet.
Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said that instead of attesting to their personal knowledge of the charges or vouching for the authenticity of the records attached, the two complainants used language more applicable to lawmakers acting as endorsers of the complaint.
The verification read in part: “…We have caused the said complaint to be prepared and have read the contents thereof; and that the allegations therein are true of our own knowledge and belief on the basis of our reading and appreciation of documents and other records pertinent thereto.”
Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque argued in favor of accepting the wording in the verification, as the proper language, he said, was never set in the impeachment rules.
“The problem is, while we have prescribed a specific form, we did not provide the specific language,” Roque said. “I think complainants should not be made to suffer for our own lapse. We did not provide the form that is required.”
To which Fariñas replied: “I was the one who wrote the rules…I know why he is objecting. Because that is the form he used in verifying the Bautista complaint.”
After the hearing, Roque said he would clarify with the justice committee if it was possible to amend the verification sheet in the impeachment complaint against Bautista.
“What is written [under the rules] is that if it is found insufficient in form, then it will be returned to the complainant in three days. There’s no mention of it being dismissed,” he told reporters.
“My interpretation is we can amend as to the verification,” he said.
Roque and Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia, two of the three lawmakers who endorsed the complaint against Bautista, approached the justice committee chair, Rep. Reynaldo Umali, to clarify the appropriate steps to be taken.
In a 23-page complaint, former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio accused Bautista of failing to disclose bank accounts, investments and properties in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
In 2016, the Comelec chief declared a net worth of P176.3 million only, but his wife Patricia Cruz-Bautista in August produced bank records, passbooks and real property documents that appeared to bely what he stated in the document.
Bautista was also accused of betraying the public trust by receiving referral fees from electronic voting company Smartmatic through Divina Law Office, and of failing to prevent the so-called “Comeleak” data breach that compromised the private information of millions of registered voters in March 2016.
Apart from Garcia and Roque, the complaint was endorsed by Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino.
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