October 23, 2017, 3:51 pm
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House wants to make sure Bautista stays out

HOUSE majority leader Rudy Fariñas yesterday said he would recommend to the plenary next month that the justice committee be allowed to hold hearings for the preparation of the articles of impeachment against Elections Chair Andres Bautista.

But Rep. Edcel Lagman (LP, Albay), a leader of the seven-man opposition bloc, said it was “premature” to prepare the articles of impeachment because “there is no determination yet by the committee on the substance and sufficiency of the complaint.”

The House, before adjourning for a month-long break on Wednesday, impeached Bautista by reversing the justice panel’s decision to dismiss the impeachment complaint. The House met the constitutional requirement of one-third vote of all members to send an impeachment complaint to the Senate for trial. 

The justice panel dismissed the complaint last month for insufficiency in form for being “defective.” The complaint, filed by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, accuses Bautista of failing to declare properties and money in his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth.

The reversal came hours after Bautista announced his resignation, effective end of the year.  

Lagman cited the House Rules on Impeachment which state that the disposition by the plenary o the recommendation for dismissal of an impeachment complaint by the justice panel “presupposes that the recommendation is based on the insufficiency of the complaint, lack of sufficient grounds or absence of probable cause.”

In such cases, he said, the plenary’s rejection of the recommendation for dismissal leads to the preparation of the Articles of Impeachment by the justice panel “because the very substance of the complaint is effectively upheld by the requisite number of one-third of the members.”

Lagman also said that since Bautista has resigned, effective December 31, an impeachment proceeding will be unnecessary because its purpose is his ouster.

He said an ouster has been preempted by Bautista’s resignation, the effective date of which “will definitely occur before the termination of the impeachment process both in the House and in the Senate.”

“There is inordinate haste on the part of the Duterte administration to end the tenure of Bautista to enable the President to appoint his chosen Chairman of the Commission on Elections,” he said.

Rep. Antonio Tinio (PL, ACT) said the administration’s motivation in ousting Bautista is the “control of the elections.”

“Chairman Bautista’s impeachment is a clear attempt from President Duterte and his administration to control all vital offices especially the supposedly independent constitutional bodies,” he said.

There is a pending impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno at the House. President Duterte himself has also threatened to have Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales impeached.

Bautista said he is standing pat on the effectivity of his resignation.

“My resignation letter has already been filed with the President. It would be embarrassing to the President (if I would change it),” he said in a radio interview.

He said changing the effectivity date would go against his very reason for setting it at the end of the year, “which is a smooth and orderly transition.” “Secondly, out of respect to the President, I want to give him enough time to choose my replacement,” he added.

On why his resignation was not irrevocable, he said, “Out of respect to the appointing authority, I didn’t use that word. We want him to have enough time to think over my resignation.” 

“In the world of possibilities, he might probably ask me to stay until a certain date. Out of respect to him, we should give him options and let him decide,” he added.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, after the plenary vote on Wednesday, said Bautista could avoid a Senate impeachment trial if his resignation is effective immediately. Justice panel chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali issued a similar statement. 

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the impeachment trial would stop once Bautista steps down.

He said the only purpose of the impeachment proceeding is to remove an impeachable official, and Bautista’s resignation would deem the process moot. 

He also said the Senate has not received a “certified true copy” of Bautista’s resignation.

Bautista submitted his resignation letter to President Duterte on Wednesday and Malacañang acknowledged receipt of the letter also Wednesday.

Topacio said the resignation has no bearing on the impeachment complaint filed because Bautista did not sign any formal letter.

“It has no bearing. First, has he formally resigned? I have not seen any formal letter of resignation. He only made it known through Facebook that he is resigning,” Topacio said.

He also said the resignation “was not irrevocable.”

“It is merely an intention to resign, which may or may not happen. What if before Dec. 31, 2017, God decides to tell him: Andy, don’t resign,” Topacio said.

He also said Bautista’s option is to file an irrevocable resignation before the Senate decides on his fate.

Paras said, “He said he will resign, but that remains to be seen.” – With Gerard Naval, JP Lopez and Ashzel Hachero
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