May 25, 2018, 8:32 pm
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1 Philippine Peso = 1 Philippine Peso
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1 Philippine Peso = 149.32471 Sierra Leone Leone
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1 Philippine Peso = 397.78391 Sao Tome Dobra
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.60662 Thai Baht
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.08961 Turkish Lira
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1 Philippine Peso = 0.56886 Taiwan Dollar
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1 Philippine Peso = 433.30797 Vietnam Dong
1 Philippine Peso = 2.03595 Vanuatu Vatu
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1 Philippine Peso = 10.63667 CFA Franc (BCEAO)
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Impeach case vs Bautista declared moot

AN impeachment case filed against Andres Bautista has been rendered dead with his decision to step down as chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday, much earlier than the December 31 effectivity he stated in the resignation letter he submitted to Malacañang early this month.

Bautista left the post earlier because Malacañang, in a letter sent to him also on Monday, said his resignation is being accepted “effective immediately.”

The House justice committee yesterday declared the impeachment complaint filed by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio moot and academic.

“I will just report (to the plenary) since it (impeachment case) was already overtaken by events. It was mooted by the acceptance of the resignation,” said Rep. Reynaldo Umali (PDP-Laban, Oriental Mindoro), committee chair, after a hearing.

Malacañang has not announced Bautista’s replacement.

“As an independent commission, the Comelec will resolve among its remaining commissioners as to who will be its officer-in-charge until such time the President appoints the new chair,” said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.

Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo called rumor reports he is eyeing the Comelec chairmanship.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the remaining members of the commission en banc named Christian Robert Lim as the acting chairman.

Lim is retiring in February next year. He said his designation just means “more work.”

Bautista’s replacement will be serving the unexpired term of his/her predecessor, which is until Feb. 2, 2022. 

The other remaining commissioners are Arthur Lim, Luie Guia, Al Parreño, Sherif Abas, and Rowena Guanzon.

At the House, the justice panel was supposed to prepare the Articles of Impeachment that will be sent to the Senate for trial after the plenary voted to reverse the committee’s recommendation to dismiss the complaint for being insufficient in form.

The committee has received a copy of the letter Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea sent to Bautista, and a notice sent by Bautista’s lawyers informing the panel of his resignation.

During the hearing, Umali told the panel it was taking “judicial notice” of Bautista’s immediate resignation.

Bautista’s lawyers Luis Carlo Tagarda and Christian Diaz vowed to comply with the request of Reps. Rodante Marcoleta’s (PL, SAGIP) and Doy Leachon (LP, Oriental Mindoro) for them to put in writing Bautista’s “full conformity” to their claim that they are representing him, including the date of his resignation.

Paras, who was allowed to speak despite not being a member of the House, initially objected because he wanted to make sure that Bautista’s resignation took effect Monday.

“When you say the President has accepted (the resignation), does it mean that Mr. Bautista has also accepted his immediate resignation?” he said.

Responding, Umali said: “I think this matter is all very clear. There was an offer, there was an acceptance, so there is now a meeting of the minds. This meeting of the minds rendered this issue finished.”

Topacio said he would take the word of Bautista’s lawyers because he personally knows they are “very reputable.”

Lorna Kapunan, who represents Bautista’s estranged wife Patricia, said their camp has now “leveled the playing field” because the former elections chair “cannot hide behind immunity of his office… he now can be sued as a private citizen.”

The impeachment case stemmed from Patricia’s claim that her husband did not disclose all his properties in his statement of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALN) in 2016.

Kapunan asked the justice panel to allow their camp to make a “proffer of evidence” even if there will be no more trial, saying it will still be useful in aid of legislation.

“Perhaps it is ripe to review the bank secrecy law, the anti-money laundering (law) and the plunder (law) and (find put) how easily these can be escaped,” she said.

Reps. Marcoleta, Romeo Acop (PDP-Laban, Antipolo), and Salvador Belaro (PL, 1-Ang Edukasyon) objected to Kapunan’s request, saying there is no use for Kapunan to submit evidence without a trial.

The objections were later withdrawn after Umali explained that Kapunan will just be submitting records “that may guide the House on future actions relations to matters that have a bearing in future legislation.”

The complaint alleges that Bautista failed to disclose in his SALN money and real estate properties “which were way beyond the amounts” he declared in his SALN. It quoted Patricia as saying in a press conference that she had discovered several passbooks and bank and real property documents under her husband’s name and some of his relatives, and these were not included in his 2016 SALN in which the chairman declared a net worth of P176.3 million.

Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies, said his panel will resume its investigations on the alleged bank accounts exposed by Bautista’s estranged wife.

No date has been set. The first hearing was held in August.

Escudero said Bautista would be asked to attend the hearing.

Earlier, the committee asked Bautista to issue a waiver on his bank secrecy rights for the panel to examine his alleged bank accounts at the Luzon Development Bank.

In the absence of a waiver, Bautista should attend the hearing, Escudero said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor, Gerard Naval, and JP Lopez
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