The House of Representatives terminated its process of impeaching Bautista yesterday or a day after he announced he was quitting as chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) after being informed that President Duterte had accepted his resignation “effective immediately.” AP/Aaron Favila, File

Bautista avoids impeachment trial, but not probe
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — He may have escaped the rigors of an impeachment trial, but resigned elections chief Andres Bautista’s troubles are not over as he will have to parry allegations of corruption raised by his estranged wife.

The House of Representatives terminated its process of impeaching Bautista yesterday or a day after he announced he was quitting as chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) after being informed that President Duterte had accepted his resignation “effective immediately.”

At the Senate, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said there was “no one to impeach” anymore as Bautista had already stepped down.

Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the committee on banks, stressed his panel’s probe on allegations of ill-gotten wealth against Bautista would push through despite the latter’s resignation.

He also cited a Supreme Court ruling in Estrada vs Desierto in 2001 which renders impeachment proceedings against a resigned official moot, but without prejudice to the filing of administrative, civil or criminal cases against such official.

House Majority leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said that with the Palace’s decision, the impeachment charges against the Comelec chief would no longer be sent to the Senate “as the only purpose of impeachment is the removal of the official.”

“The resignation makes the trial of the case (by the Senate as an impeachment court) moot and academic. Unfortunately for him, the records of the House will show that he was impeached,” he said.

The House committee on justice chaired by Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali met yesterday and voted to terminate its impeachment hearings.

“The process was overtaken by events and mooted by the President’s acceptance of the resignation. We will just submit a report to the plenary when session resumes,” Umali told reporters.

He said Duterte’s acceptance of Bautista’s resignation “relieves us of additional work.”

“I need not worry about this anymore. It is one impeachment done, but with one or two coming,” referring to the impeachment process against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and a possible filing of complaint against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

The Umali committee had originally recommended the dismissal of the impeachment complaint against Bautista. The case was based largely on the allegation of Bautista’s wife Patricia Cruz that he had amassed more than P1 billion in ill-gotten assets.

The Comelec chief has strongly denied the accusation. He and his wife are embroiled in a bitter marital dispute. They have filed charges against each other.

On Oct. 11, the House voted 137-75 to reverse the justice committee recommendation and impeach Bautista hours after he announced his resignation, which was to take effect on Dec. 31 this year. He had also sent a resignation letter to Duterte.

Umali said it was the first time the House reversed a committee decision.

Sources earlier claimed the House leadership was piqued by Bautista’s statement that his resignation would take effect at the end of the year and not immediately as legislators had expected.

On the same day Bautista made the announcement, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez hastily called a closed-door caucus, where it was decided that Bautista should be impeached. Three hours later, a verdict was handed down.

Members of the committee on justice, including Umali and Fariñas, were allowed to stick to their votes for the dismissal of the complaint against Bautista.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay said the Oct. 11 vote and the subsequent meetings of the Umali committee were all an exercise in futility and a waste of time and taxpayers’ money.

Even if the impeachment charges against Bautista manage to reach the Senate, a trial would not be finished by the time Congress goes on its month-long Christmas recess on Dec. 16.

He said a trial would likely be overtaken by Bautista’s actual departure from his post on Dec. 31. –  With Paolo Romero

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