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Comelec’s Bautista may leave post early to avoid impeachment trial

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(Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer)


MANILA — Following the reversal by the House of Representatives of its panel’s decision to drop the impeachment complaint against him, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista may change his mind and step down even before the effectivity of his resignation of Dec. 31 to avoid an impeachment trial by the Senate acting as Senate Impeachment Tribunal.


This as members of the Senate and the House of Representatives said Bautista would still undergo impeachment trial if he does not resign immediately and irrevocably.


Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez disclosed that the House committee on justice has prepared the articles of impeachment to be filed in the Senate. The House, however, is on recess and could act on the articles when it resumes its session middle of November.


Lawyers of Bautista’s estranged wife Patricia, meanwhile, said they will file plunder charges against the Comelec chief for accumulating over P1 billion.


Patricia had accused Bautista of corruption, and presented to the public his actual bank passbooks and documents which, together with his real property, were valued at P1.2 billion, to prove it. She said she did nlt want to be accused in some future time of being part of her husband’s corruption or even profiting from his dirty money.


 Lawyer Lorna Kapunan said Bautista may have already tendered his resignation letter but they would still pursue the filing of a plunder case against him.


“We will file plunder (case). The impeachment will only remove him from his position,” Kapunan said.


Kapunan explained that if the Comelec chairman would be impeached, he only has to vacate his position, but to make him accountable for the alleged crimes he has committed; cases would have to be filed against Bautista in court.


“Criminal cases have to be filed against him, some members of his family, Smartmatic, Divina Law Firm managing partner Nilo Divina, and the Luzon Development Bank,” she said.


The embattled Comelec chief is also facing impeachment before Congress after 137 lawmakers at the House voted to forward the complaint against him to the Senate, which will now act as an impeachment court.


Bautista is the first Comelec chairman to be impeached by Congress.


In the affidavit Patricia filed before the NBI, she alleged her husband has 35 bank accounts amounting to more than P300 million with the Luzon Development Bank; has a foreign currency account and a peso account amounting to US$12,778.30 with the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC); and HK$948,358.97 with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. (HSBC).


Deputy minority leader Harry Roque, one of the impeachment complainants, said that the draft of the articles of impeachment he has submitted to the committee involves the following.


• The anomalous bank accounts, funds, businesses, corporations and financial transactions involving Bautista and/or his family members;

• Bautista’s supposed commissions from private law firm Divina &Uy law offices;

• Bautista’s failure to properly disclose his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth; and

•Bautista’s failure to address the hacking of the Comelec website in March 2015.


Bautista disclosed that he was just waiting for the official communication from Malacañang since President Duterte announced last week that he had accepted his resignation.


The Senate will wait for the actual resignation of Bautista before totally scrapping its preparations for his impeachment trial in the chamber, according to Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said.


Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque also said Bautista must be tried by the Senate as an impeachment court if he does not resign before Dec. 31.


Sotto revealed the House would no longer transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate once Bautista is out of the Comelec because it will be useless.


Sotto said he would not want to waste public funds preparing for Bautista’s trial that in all likelihood would not push through.


Bautista said he went to Malacanang Tuesday last week to hand his resignation and met with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea. During the meeting, the two forged a “gentleman’s agreement” for him to resign by the end of the year.


Once a replacement for his position is chosen before Dec. 31, Bautista said he could leave his post.


He explained he did not resign immediately to give the President time to find a replacement and have a smooth and orderly transition within the poll body.

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