Voting made shortly after Bautista announced his resignation
The House of Representatives has voted 137-75-2 to impeach Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, hours after he announced his plan to resign by the year’s end.
Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu directed the House justice committee to prepare the Articles of Impeachment to be transmitted to the Senate, which will act as the impeachment court and hold a full-blown trial.
The 75 lawmakers, many belonging to the justice committee led by Rep. Reynaldo Umali, voted on Thursday afternoon to adopt the committee report dismissing the complaint of former Negros Oriental 1st Dist. Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio due to a defective verification form.
But they were outvoted by 137 lawmakers, which was above the one-third threshold (98 lawmakers) required by Section 11, Article 3 of the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings to override the justice committee’s recommendations.
Two lawmakers abstained. The decision was reached by way of nominal voting, although the House has yet to release the full list of votes as of press time.
During the session, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez explained that Bautista should be made to answer the “very serious” allegations of amassing ill-gotten wealth and receiving “referral fees” from election technology contractor Smartmatic.
Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia also objected to Umali’s motion to adopt the justice committee report, saying Bautista “must be given the opportunity to be heard.”
Surigao del Norte 2nd Dist. Rep. Robert Ace Barbers told his colleagues: “It appears there was some infraction and we never heard any reply on the allegations being hurled against him.”
In a press briefing, Garcia and Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque said Bautista’s resignation announcement was just an attempt to fool the congressmen into dismissing the complaint.
Since the complaint was dismissed due to insufficiency of form, the justice committee had not held hearings to tackle the substance of the complaint.
Asked about it, Roque expressed confidence that the case was solid enough to go to the Senate directly: “What else should have to be threshed out?”
He noted that Bautista’s estranged wife Patricia held original copies of the documents that would supposedly prove the ill-gotten wealth allegations, and also pointed to the Comelec chief’s supposed admissions regarding the receipt of fees from Smartmatic’s legal counsel, the Divina Law Office.
The two endorsers of the Paras-Topacio complaint said they could not risk the possibility of Bautista withdrawing his resignation only for the one-year ban on subsequent impeachment attempts to toll.
“What if, after his prayers again and discernment, he says I will not resign?” Garcia said. “If he thought he can persuade the congressmen with a very lame claim of resignation, the 137 congressmen saw through it all!”
Roque said it was as if Bautista “attempted to buy time” by announcing his resignation on Wednesday morning, so he “would have bought himself a year free of impeachment.”
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