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Why House hasn't terminated Bautista impeachment talks

MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on justice has to observe certain "formalities" before it terminates its work on the impeachment of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista.

Mindoro Oriental 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali,  chairman of the House committee on justice, made the statement in a chance interview a day after President Rodrigo Duterte accepted the resignation of  Bautista and deemed it “effective immediately." 

“[It’s not yet terminated] because the documents we required have not yet been submitted,” Umali said on  Tuesday, October 24.

The panel was supposed to discuss and finalize the articles of impeachment before submitting it to the Senate.

The complainants in the case against Bautista, as well as his estranged wife, Patricia, whose allegations of corruption are the basis of several articles of impeachment, attended the Tuesday meeting.

During the meeting, members of the House committee asked Bautista’s lawyers to submit within the day proof that they had Bautista’s authority to represent him and a “definitive date of resignation.”

"Those are judicial notices. Formalities, if you will," explained Umali. "We were overtaken by events. It’s mooted by the acceptance of [Bautista’s] resignation. There’s nothing to discuss; it’s already moot."

Once the documents are submitted by 7 pm on October 24, the House panel will proceed to make its report, which will include the fact that Bautista, although impeached by the House, is also deemed resigned.

The report will then be discussed before the plenary when session resumes next month.

It’s been a long and bumpy journey for Bautista, whose troubles began when Patricia accused her husband of bank accounts not declared in his Statement of Liabilities, Assets, and Net Worth (SALN).

Bautista’s critics claimed he misappropriated or pocketed funds when he chaired the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and later, the Comelec.

The committee on justice dismissed the impeachment complaint against Bautista, because it was insufficient in substance, but this was overridden by a House vote. Bautista was impeached the same day he announced his resignation, supposedly effective on December 31, 2017.

The House was supposed to forward the articles of impeachment to the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.

Kabayan Representative Harry Roque, one of the complaint’s endorsers and among those who argued against the dismissal of the complaint, wants documents related to the complaint be forwarded to the committee. He claimed in a press conference that Bautista was afraid the documents would go public.

There was a motion to terminate the committee’s “proceedings in relation to the impeachment of Bautista subject to qualification” during the hearing, but this was not acted on.

Patricia's lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, said that while this was the “end” of the outgoing Comelec chairman’s debacle before the House, it was just “the beginning” for Patricia.

Kapunan said National Bureau of Investigation- led probe is expected to wrap up soon. – Rappler.com