Panel to tackle Bautista case

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - —STORY BY VINCE F. NONATO, JULIE M. AURE­LIO AND JEROME ANING

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is set to de­lib­er­ate on the ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment to be filed against Com­elec Chair An­dres Bautista on Oct. 18. Rep. Rey­naldo Umali, jus­tice com­mit­tee chair, said that be­fore pro­ceed­ings are ini­ti­ated in the Se­nate in Novem­ber, his panel might have to shore up the case first.

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is set to de­lib­er­ate on the ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment to be filed against Com­mis­sion on Elec­tions (Com­elec) Chair An­dres Bautista on Oct. 18.

Jus­tice com­mit­tee chair, Rep. Rey­naldo Umali, told re­porters in a phone in­ter­view that be­fore pro­ceed­ings were ini­ti­ated in the Se­nate in Novem­ber, his panel might have to shore up the case first so an air­tight case could be pros­e­cuted in the im­peach­ment court.

Umali said that “if it will suf­fice, then we may adopt” the com­plaint filed by for­mer Ne­gros Ori­en­tal Rep. Jac­into Paras and lawyer Fer­di­nand Topa­cio.

“We may have to sub­poena some peo­ple and/or some doc­u­ments,” he said.

The jus­tice com­mit­tee had not tack­led at length the sub­stance of the com­plaint. The com­mit­tee on Sept. 20 ini­tially dis­missed it for in­suf­fi­ciency in form, due to a flawed ver­i­fi­ca­tion form.

The House ple­nary on Oct. 11 voted 137-75-2 to over­ride the com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tion and di­rected it to pre­pare the ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment to be trans­mit­ted to the Se­nate.

Al­bay Rep. Ed­cel Lag­man on Thurs­day said that the com­mit­tee should had at least been al­lowed to thresh out the sub­stance of the com­plaint first.

Law­mak­ers in fa­vor of Bautista’s im­peach­ment said he might be bluff­ing when he an­nounced his plan to re­sign “by the end of the year” on the morn­ing of Oct. 11. This led them to con­clude he should be im­peached to avoid giv­ing him a year’s re­prieve from sub­se­quent im­peach­ment at­tempts.

‘To­tal farce’

Call­ing the im­peach­ment of Bautista a “to­tal farce,” for­mer Com­elec chief Sixto Bril­lantes Jr. ad­vised his suc­ces­sor to fol­low due process in the loom­ing trial in the Se­nate.

“I’m fully aware that the im­peach­ment process is both po­lit­i­cal and le­gal. But in his case, there is no doubt that it is to­tally, ab­so­lutely and purely po­lit­i­cal. All le­gal as­pects were brushed aside,” Bril­lantes said.

Bril­lantes made the re­marks on his Face­book ac­count on Thurs­day.

“My hum­ble ad­vice to Chair Andy (Bautista’s nick­name): Do not heed to the seem­ing de­mand for im­me­di­ate res­ig­na­tion,” Bril­lantes said.

He said the trou­bled poll chief should wait for the ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment to be el­e­vated to the Se­nate.

“With such al­ter­na­tive in­tended steps at least you shall have af­forded your­self due process which you were wit­tingly or un­wit­tingly de­prived by the 137 House mem­bers,” he said.

“[Bautista] never ap­peared be­fore the House com­mit­tee, was never in­formed of the spe­cific charges against him, was not fur­nished a copy of the com­plaint, and was not re­quired to an­swer and there­fore there was ab­so­lutely no le­gal process that was un­der­taken in so far as he is con­cerned,” he said.

Mean­while, the Na­tional Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion’s probe of Bautista will go on de­spite his res­ig­na­tion by the end of the year, Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Vi­tal­iano Aguirre II said on Fri­day.

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