SE­NATE TO TRY COM­ELEC CHIEF

Manila Times - - FRONT PAGE - BER­NADETTE E. TA­MAYO, WIL­LIAM B. DEPASUPIL, MARY GLEEFER JALEA, RALPH ED­WIN U. VIL­LANUEVA AND CATHER­INE S. VALENTE

THE Se­nate will con­vene as an im­peach­ment court to try Com­mis­sion on Elec­tions (Com­elec) Chairman Juan An­dres Bautista, Se­nate Pres­i­dent Aquilino “Koko” Pi­mentel 3rd said on Thurs­day.

Pi­mentel at the same time as­sured his col­leagues Bautista’s trial won’t in­ter­fere with leg­isla­tive work, par­tic­u­larly de­lib­er­a­tions on the P3.8-tril­lion na­tional bud­get for 2018 and the tax re­form bill, a pri­or­ity mea­sure.

“There will not be any de­lay be­cause we will hold trial days when we are off from leg­isla­tive work. Trial [will be held] on Thurs­day, Fri­day [ and] Satur­day,” Pi­mentel said in a text mes­sage.

Congress went on a month­long break on Wed­nes­day and would re­sume ses­sion on Novem­ber 13.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Franklin Drilon pointed out that the bud­get was in the pe­riod of in­ter­pel­la­tions, “with many con­tro­ver­sial items yet

to be tack­led.” The pro­posed tax re­form law or the “Tax Re­form for Ac­cel­er­a­tion and In­clu­sion Act” is in the pe­riod of amend­ments.

“Our cal­en­dar is too tight and the im­peach­ment case will eat up a lot of our time when we re­sume ses­sion in Novem­ber. Leg­isla­tive work will be se­ri­ously af­fected and that is a mat­ter that the lead­er­ship should highly con­sider,” he said.

The Se­nate has sole power to try and de­cide all cases of im­peach­ment, Drilon noted, re­fer­ring to Sec­tion 3 (6) of the Ar­ti­cle XI of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“The im­peach­ment trial is a con­sti­tu­tional duty that the Se­nate is bound to per­form with­out any de­lay. We should give it the high­est pri­or­ity,” he said.

Sen. Fran­cis Pangili­nan on Wed­nes­day said there was no more need to hold an im­peach­ment trial as Bautista had re­signed. “It is a waste of time.”

Bautista on Wed­nes­day sub­mit­ted a res­ig­na­tion let­ter to the take ef­fect un­til the end of the year. It was not ir­rev­o­ca­ble.

This prompted the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to im­peach Bautista and re­verse last month’s de­ci­sion of the House Com­mit­tee on Jus­tice to junk the im­peach - man Jacinto Paras.

En­dorsers of the im­peach­ment com­plaint, Kabayan party- list Rep. Harry Roque and Cebu Rep. Gwen­dolyn Gar­cia, said Bautista could still with­draw his res­igna- tion and en­joy a one- year im­mu­nity from im­peach­ment if the House did not re­verse the jus­tice com­mit­tee de­ci­sion.

Bautista is be­ing ac­cused of ne­glect of duty that re­sulted in the hack­ing of vot­ers’ per­sonal information, al­low­ing au­to­mated elec­tion ma­chine provider Smart­matic to tinker with the script of the “trans­parency” server that broad­cast the 2016 elec­tion re­sults, and hid­ing nearly P1 bil­lion in ill- got­ten wealth as al­leged by his es­tranged wife, Pa­tri­cia Paz.

The Com­elec chief is also said to have ac­cepted il­le­gal com­mis law dean Nilo Div­ina, who had served as coun­sel for Smart­matic.

Bautista was im­peached on Wed­nes­day by a vote of 13775, and two ab­sten­tions, just hours after he an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion.

Com­elec chief to face mu­sic

Bautista stood pat on his de­ci­sion end of the year.

The Com­elec chief said on Thurs­day he was ready to face the or­deal of im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings in the Se­nate.

“I was not ex­pect­ing it but I re­spect their (House mem­bers) opin­ion. We’ll just pre­pare for the ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment that they will make,” he told re­porters.

Bautista ad­mit­ted that his let- ter of res­ig­na­tion to Mala­cañang was not ir­rev­o­ca­ble, which he said was in def­er­ence to the ap­point­ing au­thor­ity and to give the Pres­i­dent the op­por­tu­nity to de­cide on it.

“Let’s leave it to the Pres­i­dent. It was just yes­ter­day, so let’s give him time to de­cide on it. What­ever his de­ci­sion will be, I will ac­cept it,” he fur­ther said.

Aside from his for­mal res­ig­na­tion let­ter to the Pres­i­dent, Bautista also wrote a let­ter to his Com­elec fam­ily which bore a dif­fer­ent sig­na­ture.

“I signed Andy to my Com­elec fam­ily [ let­ter], while I used my of­fi­cial sig­na­ture in my res­ig­na­tion let­ter to the Pres­i­dent,” he said.

Bautista de­nies he has amassed charges against his es­tranged wife and rob­bery and ex­tor­tion.

‘ In­sin­cere and unrepentant’

Manuelito Luna, coun­sel for im­peach­ment com­plainants for­mer con­gress­man Jacinto Paras and lawyer Fer­di­nand Topa­cio, said Bautista ap­peared “in­sin­cere and unrepentant” based on the tenor of his let­ter to the Com­elec staff.

Luna said the House ple­nary’s de­ci­sion to im­peach Bautista was “to­tal vin­di­ca­tion for the com­plainants.”

Paras on Thurs­day cited a Pres­i­den­tial Com­mis­sion on Good Gov­ern­ment ( PCGG) re­port show­ing seven “anom­alies” dur­ing Bautista’s term in the agency.

The list in­cludes unliq­ui­dated cash dis­burse­ments from Philip­pine Na­tional Bank dol­lar bond ac­counts of the PCGG, hir­ing of “ghost em­ploy­ees” with salaries rang­ing from P25,000 to P29,000 monthly, re­ceipts of gift checks from Bataan Ship­yard and Engi­neer­ing Co. ( Baseco) and In­de­pen­dent Realty Cor­po­ra­tion Group, en­gage­ment with Div­ina Law, abuse of gov­ern­ment ve­hi­cles, anoma­lous pay­ment of mem­ber­ship dues to pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions, and the open­ing of nu­mer­ous ac­counts with Lu­zon De­vel­op­ment Bank.

Col­lec­tive de­ci­sion

House Ma­jor­ity Leader Rodolfo Far­iñas of Ilo­cos Norte told re­porters the im­peach­ment of Bautista was a col­lec­tive de­ci­sion of the bloc’s cau­cus on Wed­nes­day.

He ex­plained that those who voted in fa­vor of the com­mit­tee re­port junk­ing the im­peach­ment raps last month were not al­lowed to vote against it in the ple­nary. This re­sulted in a mixed de­ci­sion of the mem­bers of the ma­jor­ity on the mat­ter.

Far­iñas pushed the mo­tion to de­clare the im­peach­ment com com­mit­tee on jus­tice last month.

“We had to main­tain our vote in fa­vor of the re­port, even if we were al­ready in fa­vor of im­peach­ment. Same with [Ori­en­tal Min­doro Rep. and House Com­mit­tee on Jus­tice] Chairman Rey­naldo Umali,” Fari­nas said.

“The Speaker, and those who voted with him, and we who voted in fa­vor of the Re­port, did not really have any real dif­fer­ence as the de­ci­sion to im­peach was made by us, but there were mem­bers like me who could no longer vote against the re­port,” he said.

“You must have no­ticed that I was the one who en­sured that the will of the ma­jor­ity was fol­lowed, and not my ac­tual vote. my col­leagues not to follow my vote on that par­tic­u­lar in­stance,” he added.

Umali told re­porters by phone that all 26 mem­bers of the com­mit­tee voted to junk the com­plaint against Bautista.

He ad­mit­ted he did not ex­pect to be over­ruled.

“Per­son­ally, it was not too good for me be­cause it was the first time that I was over­ruled or re­jected by my peers. But that is democ­racy at work,” Umali said.

Palace won’t in­ter­fere

Mala­cañang on Thurs­day said it would not in­ter­fere in Congress’ pro­ceed­ings on the im­peach­ment of Bautista.

In a news con­fer­ence, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said im­peach­ment was “be­yond our purview.” “Well, Congress shall de­cide what to do, you know, with this im­peach­ment in view of his res­ig­na­tion,” Abella told re­porters.

PHOTO BY NICA GAL­LARDO

ANDY’S ‘SINS’

For­mer Ne­gros Ori­en­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jacinto Paras holds a copy of a re­port that­con­tains the al­leged anom­alies com­mit­ted by Com­mis­sion on Elec­tions Chairman An­dres Bautista. With his is Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque.

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