House panel affirms decision to junk impeach rap vs Andy Bautista
The House justice committee affirmed on Thursday its decision to junk the impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Andres “Andy” Bautista as a result of a defect in the verification of the document.
By a 26-2 vote, the panel chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali approved the committee report and the accompanying House resolution junking the complaint filed by former Negros Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio due to flawed wording in their verification.
The dispositive portion of the report read: “Now be it resolved by the House of Representatives to dismiss the impeachment complaint filed by Jacinto Paras and Ferdinand Topacio against Andres Bautista for the reason that it is insufficient in form due to its defective verification.”
The committee report and resolution would now be transmitted to the House plenary for approval.
If one-third of 293 House members vote to reverse the committee’s finding, according to Umali, the panel will have to meet anew to draft the articles of impeachment and transmit it to the Senate for an impeachment trial.
Based largely on his estranged wife Patricia Cruz-Bautista’s allegations, the complaint accused Bautista of failing to disclose almost P1 billion worth of bank deposits, investments and properties in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, and receiving referral fees from electronic voting company Smartmatic through the Divina Law Office.
But the body had not bothered to go into the merits of the case, as the members insisted on following two precedents in deciding impeachment cases: the one filed by Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano against President Rodrigo Duterte and the second of two complaints filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
In the first case, the justice panel had decided to accept the flawed language used by Alejano in his complaint in the exercise of “liberality” with the caveat that any subsequent impeachment complaint must follow the rules to the letter.
The Alejano complaint was found sufficient in form but not in substance and dismissed in May.
In the second case, the committee threw out the second Sereno complaint filed by anti-crime crusader Dante Jimenez and lawyer Eligio Mallari for insufficiency in form due to defective verification.
The original verification of the Paras-Topacio impeachment complaint stated that they “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.”
This was the same fatal wording error in the Jimenez-Mallari complaint against Sereno that was likewise dismissed for insufficiency in form. The other Sereno complaint, however, passed both tests of sufficiency in form and substance and proceeded to a hearing.
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