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Bautista leaves fate to Duterte


Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Andres Bautista is standing pat on his decision to step down on Dec. 31 despite the House of Representatives’ decision to impeach him.

But the chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday said his resignation was not “irrevocable,” as he was still open to the possibility that President Duterte might ask him to stay a bit longer.

“I want him to have enough time to think over my resignation … . He might ask if I could stay until a certain time,” Bautista said.

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“I don’t know what his decision will be. I haven’t talked to him. So out of respect for him, you give him options and let him decide what is best,” he added.

Orderly transition

Bautista explained that he decided to make his resignation effective at the end of the year to ensure a smooth and orderly transition.

Hours after he announced his plan to resign on Wednesday morning, the House voted 137-75-2 to  overturn the earlier decision of the committee on justice and impeach him.

Bautista is accused of amassing ill-gotten wealth and receiving “referral fees” from election technology contractor Smartmatic.

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III has remarked that Bautista could avoid an impeachment trial if he resigns effective immediately.

Bautista said he would just prepare for his defense in the impeachment trial. “If the impeachment trial will proceed, I will face that. But I will still consult my family since they helped me make a decision.”

Done in ‘haste’

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Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has questioned the chamber’s “haste” in impeaching Bautista without discussing the sufficiency of the allegations at the committee level.

In a statement, Lagman criticized how the justice committee was directed right away to prepare the articles of impeachment to be transmitted to the Senate for a full-blown impeachment trial.

For him, this showed inordinate haste on the part of the Duterte administration to end the tenure of Bautista to enable the President to appoint his chosen Comelec chair.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said lawmakers arrived at the decision to impeach Bautista in a Wednesday afternoon caucus, hours after the election chief announced his plan to resign by the end of the year.

House override

The House voted to override the justice committee’s recommendation to dismiss the complaint of former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio for insufficiency in form.

Fariñas said he and the justice committee chaired by Rep. Reynaldo Umali were required by the rules to stand by their original votes on Sept. 20—“even if we were already in favor of impeachment.”

“You must have noticed that I was the one who ensured that the will of the majority was followed, and not my actual vote,” he said.

But Lagman said the House should have at least referred the impeachment case back to the justice committee to determine first if it was sufficient in substance.

‘Solid’ case

Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque Jr. said on Wednesday evening that the case was solid enough to go to the Senate directly.

He noted that Bautista’s estranged wife, Patricia, held original copies of the documents that would supposedly prove the ill-gotten wealth allegations and also pointed to the Comelec chief’s supposed admissions regarding the receipt of referral fees from Smartmatic’s legal counsel, the DivinaLaw firm.

Roque maintained that Bautista’s resignation announcement was a bluff meant to lull the House into adopting the justice committee’s recommendation.

Members of the militant Makabayan party-list bloc, however, maintained that Bautista’s impeachment was part of the move to oust officials deemed to be critical of the Duterte administration.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said an impeachment would be “moot and academic as it is very obvious that it will not be terminated on or before Dec. 31,” the effectivity date of Bautista’s resignation.

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