House junks Bautista impeach rap for insufficient form
The House of Representatives dismissed for insufficiency in form the impeachment complaint lodged against Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairperson Andres Bautista.
At least 26 members of the panel voted to junk for insufficiency in form the impeachment complaint against Bautista for alleged betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution over allegations of ill-gotten wealth.
Only two members voted to find the complaint sufficient in form – Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia and Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque, who are the endorsers of the complaint.
The dismissal of the complaint shields Bautista from impeachment for at least a year.
The 1987 Constitution bars holding impeachment proceedings against the same official more than once within a period of one year.
But a dismissed impeachment complaint may still be reversed in the plenary by a vote of one thirds of all the members of the House, according to the Constitution.
The dismissal of the complaint promptly followed the committee’s rejection of a motion to adopt a substitute verification that seeks to correct the defects in the filed impeachment complaint.
The committee found the complaint insufficient in form because of the failure of the complaint to comply with the proper verification form.
The complainants filed a substitute impeachment complaint that sought to correct the verification form to reflect that they have personal knowledge on the allegations that are based on authentic documents.
This same defect was the reason the second impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was dismissed for insufficiency of form.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the Bautista complaint was bound to fail, because the committee should apply the same standards in junking the Sereno impeachment complaint.
“The impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice, and the Paras complaint against Comelec chairman Bautista are identical… Since the (Sereno) complaint was found to be insufficient in form, then the same ruling must be applied to the Paras complaint,” Lagman said.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon said since the motion to admit the substitute verification form was rejected, there was “no leg to stand on.”
“There was tacit, implicit, implied and expressed admission that the verification was defective, in view of the filing of motion to amend the previous verification… There is no leg to stand on because the motion to admit (the substitute verification) was already previously denied,” Leachon said.
Majority leader Rudy Fariñas said not only was the complaint “improperly filed” because it was addressed to the House of Representatives, not the justice committee, it also violated the one year bar on impeachment because the first impeachment complaint was deemed acted upon by the justice committee.
Fariñas added that the impeachment complaint does not contain personal knowledge because it cited newspaper accounts. He noted too that it was Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, not Mrs. Bautista, who are the complainants.
“Dapat si Mrs. Bautista ang complainant. Ang complainant po si former congressman Paras at Ferdie Topacio, who do not have personal knowledge. So paano naman po ‘yun,” Fariñas said.
“Baka magkaroon ng perjury dito. Because in their first verification, based on knowledge and belief and upon reading of documents. And then papalitan nila ng personal knowledge nila ito and based on authentic records. If you look at the allegations, most of them are not their own personal knowledge. Nagugulat nga ako, several paragraphs are quotations from newspaper accounts,” he added.
The Comelec chairman’s wife, Patricia “Tish” Bautista, also attended the proceedings. She first blew the lid on her husband’s alleged ill-gotten wealth.
In an interview after the hearing, she said she is undeterred by the dismissal of the impeachment complaint against her husband.
“It is something that is expected. Because again, from my experience, as Andy said, he knows many different people in very high places. And this is proof of that,” Mrs. Bautista said.
“So I’m not surprised. Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I deterred? Absolutely not,” she added.
In a press conference Tuesday, the wife said she has full trust on the justice committee that it would not let a technicality bring forth the truth.
Bautista faced an impeachment complaint for betrayal of public trust and culpable violations of the Constitution for not declaring his true wealth in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities Networth (SALN), as well as for alleged graft and corruption for allegedly receiving commissions from Divina Law Offices, the legal counsel of Venezuelan election technology supplier and Comelec’s biggest contractor Smartmatic.
Bautista also allegedly failed to urgently act on the hacking of the Comelec website, and also allegedly declined to assume control and supervision of the Task Force that was created to look into the data leak.
Lastly, Bautista allegedly obstructed justice when he downplayed that a “script tweak” in the 2016 election results was merely “cosmetic,” which practically cleared allegations of the camp of defeated vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos that the script tweak resulted in the victory of Vice President Leni Robredo. /idl
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