December 17, 2017, 10:19 am
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House impeaches Bautista: Vote comes hours after poll chief quit

BY WENDELL VIGILIA AND GERARD NAVAL

THE House of Representatives yesterday impeached Andres Bautista hours after he announced his resignation as chairman of the Commission on Elections, effective end of the year.

President Duterte’s allies voted 75 against 137 with two abstentions to reverse the decision of the House justice committee to dismiss the impeachment complaint filed by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.

Bautista said the House action is “an unnecessary move since I already tendered my resignation to the President today (Wednesday) and effective end of the year.”

He also said: “It is unfortunate that the decision of the House Committee on Justice to dismiss the impeachment complaint against me was overturned this afternoon by the House of Representatives.”

Bautista, who is being accused of failing to declare properties and money in his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth, could avoid an impeachment trial in the Senate if he changes his mind and makes his resignation immediately effective.

The plenary late afternoon voted to override the justice panel’s decision after Rep. Reynaldo Umali (PDP-Laban, Oriental Mindoro), panel chair, sponsored House Resolution No. 1397 under Committee Report No. 429.

The resolution was overridden pursuant to Section 11, Article 3 of the Rules of Procedure on impeachment proceedings, which states that a vote of at least one-third of all the members of the House “shall be necessary to override the panel’s resolution.”

“I am directing the committee on justice to prepare the Articles of Impeachment immediately, so ordered,” said Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of Batangas, the presiding officer.

In announcing his resignation yesterday morning before Comelec workers, Bautista said he needs to attend to the needs of his family.

Bautista’s woes started in August after his wife, Patricia, accused him of having unexplained wealth of about P1 billion and not reporting it is his 2016 SALN.

“After much prayer and discernment, I believe that it is the right time to step down given the postponement of the barangay and SK (Sangguniang Kabataan) elections,” he said.

“This was not an easy decision. But my family, especially my children, need me now more than ever,” he added.

He and Patricia have four children.

He expressed belief he was able to do his job “well” as Comelec chair in the more than two years he has been in the post.

A copy of his October 11 resignation letter released by Malacañang showed Bautista was resigning for personal reasons.

“The approximate 10-week period is meant to provide you Mr. President, sufficient time to choose my replacement as well as ensure a smooth and orderly transition within the Commission,” he said.

Asked why his resignation is not immediately effective, Bautista said he wants to give Duterte ample time to find his successor.

“I want to give him ample time to find my replacement. What I would want is a smooth and orderly transition, hence the date of my resignation,” said Bautista in a media forum later in the day.

“It would also be difficult if one is suddenly put in a position like this. You need to have enough time (to prepare),” he added.

As to allegations that his sudden resignation is part of the “deal” struck when his impeachment case was junked, he said there is no such arrangement.

“There is no ex-deal. I think if you saw the decision of the House committee on justice, the parameters they used in my case and of other officials are the same. That is already obvious,” he said.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said no one could say the resignation was Bautista’s attempt to escape impeachment.

“In the end, his decision was motivated by his desire to protect his children from the debilitating consequences arising from his family being in the vortex of an injurious public controversy. He evidently acted in the best interest of his family as well as the institution he heads,” he added.
 
SERIOUS ALLEGATIONS

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said there are “serious allegations” against Bautista, and voted to reverse the justice committee report.

Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia, who endorsed the complaint against Bautista along with Harry Roque (PL, Kabayan) and Abraham Tolentino (PDP-Laban, Cavite), said the complaint must be heard and tried at the Senate “perhaps also in order for Chairman Bautista to be heard.”

Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (NP, Surigao del Norte) said an impeachment trial in the Senate would give Bautista the opportunity to explain the perceived infractions he committed.

The Umali panel last month dismissed the Paras-Topacio complaint for insufficiency in form for being “defective.”

Rep. Sherwin Tugna (PL, Cibac), chair of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, said Bautista will have more time to attend to his family problems.

“I believe that his resignation is due to his love for his family. Being now removed from all the duties and responsibilities of being a chairman of the Comelec, he will now have more time to spend for his children,” he said.

Rep. Gary Alejano (PL, Magdalo) said he appreciates Bautista’s decision to prioritize the welfare of his children “and settling the issue with his wife privately rather than unnecessarily dragging the Comelec to such personal family issue.”

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said while she called for Bautista’s resignation, the timing came as a surprise to her.

“I had a feeling he would resign but I was surprised that he announced his intention to resign today,” said Guanzon.

Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim said, “It was a gutsy decision.”

The Comelec Employees’ Union said, “We are shocked and in a state of disbelief over the sudden resignation of our beloved Chairman.” – With With Jocelyn Montemayor
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