MANILA – The Philippine House of Representatives voted to impeach Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chief Andres Bautista just hours after he announced his resignation on Wednesday, October 11.
A total of 137 lawmakers voted to reject the earlier resolution of the House Committee on Justice, which recommended the dismissal of the complaint against Bautista after it was found to be insufficient in form due to defective verification.
Only 75 lawmakers voted to adopt the resolution while two opted to abstain, making Bautista the first poll chief to be impeached.
The committee was then directed by Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu to prepare the articles of impeachment for transmittal to the Senate, sitting as the impeachment court.
At the same day before the plenary session, Bautista announced that he is stepping from his post by the end of the year, adding that he has already filed a resignation letter at Malacañang.
The Comelec chief, whose term was supposed to expire on February 2, 2022, said his resignation is effective by December 31, 2017.
“It is with deep sadness that I am informing you about my decision to resign as the chair of the Commission on Elections by the end of the year,” Bautista said in a letter addressed to the Comelec.
“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,” he added.
In the complaint filed by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and former Negros Occidental representative Jacinto Paras of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), Bautista was accused of alleged culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
The case against him stemmed from allegations of his estranged wife, Patricia Paz Bautista, that he had about one billion pesos of undeclared wealth in his 2016 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth (SALN).
Following the House decision, Bautista said the impeachment move against him was unnecessary following the announcement of 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 case against me was overturned this afternoon by the House of Representatives,” he said in a statement.
The Comelec chief, however, vowed to abide by the Constitution regarding the impeachment process as he acknowledged that all House members 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 added.
Trial to proceed
Despite announcing his resignation, Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said the Senate will still have to proceed the impeachment trial against Bautista.
“If the impeachment case will be transmitted to us, we have to act on it,” Sotto told reporters. According to him, the Senate might start its hearing on the case either on late November or the first week of December.
Sotto, however, noted that the impeachment case would be deemed moot should the Comelec chief immediately file an irrevocable resignation.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, meanwhile, pointed out that Bautista’s resignation was still not in effect.
“He announced his plan or intention to resign but he has not yet actually resigned so impeachment is still an available remedy/procedure,” Escudero said.
Sharing similar view, Senator Panfilo Lacson noted that Bautista’s resignation is “prospective.”
“His resignation, as announced, is prospective so once the impeachment complaint is transmitted to the Senate, and his resignation is still not in effect, then we will proceed with the trial,” Lacson remarked.
But for opposition senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, putting Bautista on trial would be a “waste of time.”
“The penalty for a conviction in an impeachment trial is removal from office. Since he has resigned effective end of the year, I don’t see any reason why the Senate should convene as an impeachment court,” Pangilinan reasoned.
“It would be a waste of our time. For all intents and purposes, the matter is moot,” he added.