Impeachment complaint vs Bautista faces verification problems
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista’s woes are far from over even as the impeachment complaint lodged against him before the House of Representatives faces a gridlock due to verification problems.
This developed after the Office of the Ombudsman Field Investigation Office started its fact-finding on allegations of Bautista’s wife Patricia “Tish” Bautista that the poll chairman had accumulated ill-gotten wealth.
A source from the Office of the Ombudsman said Tish Bautista was at the office last Friday after being subpoenaed by the Field Investigation Office for the fact-finding stage.
In a message to reporters, Tish Bautista’s lawyer Lorna Kapunan confirmed that her client had attended the fact-finding hearing at the Ombudsman.
“She was subpoenaed by the Ombudsman in line with its fact finding investigation, and out of respect to the Ombudsman, we brought our client,” Kapunan said.
She said they had agreed to hold the hearings simultaneous with the impeachment proceedings to be conducted by the House of Representatives.
“Their investigation has already started,” Kapunan said. “What was agreed upon last Friday is to set hearings two weeks from now, simultaneous with the hearings to be conducted by the House of Representatives.”
But Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, House justice committee chair, said the impeachment complaint endorsed by lawmakers and filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution (VPI) would be scrutinized based on the set standards on form and substance.
“The committee will have to be consistent, subject to final final collegial action/approval thereon,” Umali said.
During the impeachment proceedings last week involving the complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the second impeachment complaint against the chief magistrate was checked using a form for complaints endorsed by one third members of the House.
Apparently, the complaint against Sereno failed to comply with the proper verification form that would indicate the private complainants’ personal knowledge on the allegations.
The complaint against Bautista lodged by the VACC and VPI also had the same defect, the justice committee then learned, raising the possibility that the Bautista complaint might suffer the same fate as the Sereno complaint, which was dismissed for insufficiency of form.
The complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon against Sereno, however, was found sufficient in both form and substance.
In a press briefing Monday, ABS Rep. Eugene de Vera said it would be up to the justice committee if it would allow the complainants to file a substitute impeachment complaint.
Otherwise, Bautista would be spared for one year from impeachment if the defective complaint would be dismissed on the basis of form, De Vera, a lawyer, said.
The 1987 Constitution bars holding impeachment proceedings against the same official more than once within a period of one year.
De Vera said the House ruiles are silent on whether or not a substitute impeachment complaint may be entertained.
“That would be to the sound discretion of the justice committee,” De Vera said.
The Bautista impeachment complaint was initially scheduled for deliberations by the House justice committee on Tuesday. It was rescheduled to Wednesday. /atm
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