Quits poll post ahead of House vote
COMMISSION on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista said Wednesday he would resign by the end of the year, just as the House of Representatives voted 137-75 to impeach him after his wife Patricia claimed he had amassed nearly P1 billion in ill-gotten wealth.
On his Twitter account, Bautista called the House decision to impeach him “unfortunate” and “unnecessary” as he had already submitted his resignation.
“It is unfortunate that the decision of the House Committee on Justice, which was voted upon twice by a vote of 26-2, to dismiss the impeachment complaint against me was overturned this afternoon by the House of Representatives,” Bautista said on his Twitter account.
He continued, “I acknowledge that all members of the House of Representatives are entitled to their own opinion. While it may be an unnecessary move since I already tendered my resignation to the President today effective end of the year to ensure a smooth transition, I will abide by the Constitution and the relevant rules regarding the impeachment process.”
Bautista informed the Comelec of his decision to resign by the end of the year by letter.
“After much prayer and discernment, I believe that this is the right time to step down given the postponement of the barangay and SK elections. This was not an easy decision. But my family, especially my children, need me now more than ever,” Bautista said.
Bautista said he submitted his resignation to Malacañang the other day and said it is effective Dec. 31, 2017.
“I also want to give our President time to choose my successor,” he said.
Bautista’s estrange wife earlier accused the Comelec chief of corruption while in government service, claiming that Bautista has several undeclared properties in his 2016 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
Bautista’s term was supposed to expire on Feb. 2, 2022.
In the House, lawmakers voted 137-75 with two abstentions to overturn a justice committee report that dismissed the impeachment complaint filed against Bautista.
Earlier, the House committee on justice chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali dismissed what it described as a defective impeachment case filed by lawyers Ferdinand Topacio and Jacinto Paras.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was among the lawmakers who voted for the impeachment of Bautista.
Alvarez said a full blown impeachment proceeding against Bautista had to be conducted to give Bautista the chance to explain.
“I believe that the charges against the chairman of the Commission on Elections, Andy Bautista, are very serious. Therefore, I vote ‘no’ to the committee report,” Alvarez said in plenary session.
Topacio and Paras accused Bautista for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution over allegations of ill-gotten wealth.
The complainants also questioned Bautista’s failure to properly declare his SALN and reported receipt of referral fees from the Divina Law; as well as failure to prevent the data breach or hacking of the Comelec website.
Presiding Speaker, Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu said the House justice committee was then directed to prepare an Articles of Impeachment for transmittal to the Senate for a full blown impeachment trial.
The vote to impeach Bautista was in accordance with the House rules on the required one-third vote of all House members.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers also voted against the committee report.
“I object to the committee report in order for the Comelec chairman be given an opportunity to explain, because it is perceived that there were some infractions that were committed by no less than the chair of the Commission and we never heard any reply on the accusations being hurled at him,” Barbers said.
Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, one of the lawmakers who endorsed the impeachment complaint, also objected to the committee report that dismissed the case against Bautista.
Reacting to Bautista’s resignation, Garcia said: “What if, after his prayers again and discernment, he says I will not resign? If he thought he can persuade the congressmen with a very lame claim of resignation, the 137 congressmen saw through it all!”
Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque said it was as if Bautista “attempted to buy time” by announcing his resignation on Wednesday morning, so he “would have bought himself a year free of impeachment.”
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone welcomed Bautista’s resignation, however, caling it “an honorable move on his part” that would free the Comelec from being dragged into the legal issues he is facing.
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, majority leader for the House contingent’s Commission on Appointments, said Bautista made the right decision as he needs to fix his family problems.
“He resigned because he is already tired,” Albano said.
Makati Rep. Luis Campos Jr., a deputy minority leader, said: “We need a Comelec chairman who can put all of his heart and mind on the job, considering that the mid-term elections are less than 20 months away.”
“He made a sensible decision. We simply cannot afford to have a deeply distracted Comelec chairman,” Campos said.
Campos said Bautista’s spat with his wife, Patricia, and her allegations that he might have amassed nearly P1 billion in unexplained wealth, has kept him from effectively performing his job.
Speaking to ANC after the vote, Umali said it was likely that they could finalize the articles of impeachment against Bautista by November.
“The Committee on Justice was directed to prepare the articles of impeachment. So as soon as we finish this...then this will go directly to [the] Senate. This may come probably when we resume session by November,” he said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III told ANC that the Senate is ready to receive and hear the ouster complaint against Bautista.
“The Senate as an institution will be ready for any impeachment case which is referred to us properly. We are ready. We have had experiences in the past... It’s a matter of scheduling,” he said.
Pimentel, however, noted that the Senate would no longer pursue hearing the complaint against Bautista if he has already left his post by the time impeachment proceedings begin.
“If the respondent in an impeachment trial is no longer connected to the government, then what is the point of proceeding with an impeachment trial?” he said.
In an interview following Bautista’s impeachment by he House of Representatives, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said once the impeachment case is transmitted to them, the Senate will meet to make preparations for the impeachment trial.
He said they can use the congressional break to plan the schedules and to review the existing rules of the Senate, which were last implemented in the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Bautista earlier denied he resigned in exchange for a dismissal of the impeachment complaint filed against him.
“There was no ex-deal or trade,” he said in Filipino during a forum in Manila.
Bautista said the impeachment complaint against him was “obviously” deficient as the complainants failed to cite personal knowledge and had no authenticated documents to support their charges.
Senators on Wednesday welcomed Bautista’s resignation.
“It is the best thing that he can do so that after he quits office, he can take care of his problems,” said Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
“No one can say that he’s using the power of his office to influence the outcome of the case,” said Drilon, referring to the case filed by his wife Patricia.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said it was high time for Bautista to focus on his personal problems.
Bautista has sued his wife for bribery and extortion after she accused him of amassing unexplained wealth.
Lacson said Bautista’s resignation was the “decent thing” to do given his current situation.
The Palace said it respected Bautista’s decision to resign.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo described the decision as “an honorable exit” given the controversy surrounding his marital woes.
“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,” Panelo added. With John Paolo Bencito