'Reversal of fortunes': Garcia, Roque celebrate Bautista impeachment

MANILA, Philippines – From two to 137.

Deputy Speaker and Cebu 3rd District Representative Gwendolyn Garcia and Kabayan Representative Harry Roque hailed on Wednesday, October 11, the House’s decision to impeach Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista.

“It’s a reversal of fortunes from the lonely two...to 137,” said Garcia, who, along with Roque and Cavite 7th District Representative Abraham Tolentino, had endorsed the impeachment complaint against Bautista.

As ex-officio members of the justice committee, Garcia and Roque both voted against junking the Bautista impeachment complaint because it was insufficient in form.

The vote happened even after Bautista announced to the Comelec and informed Malacañang that he was resigning on December 31, 2017.

“The very serious charges that are alleged in the impeachment complaint will now be heard and [Bautista] will be given his opportunity to answer such charges in the Senate,” added Bautista.

Now that the committee resolution has been rejected, the justice committee will need to prepare the articles of impeachment and forward it to the Senate. Roque said they would not leave the House of Representatives complex until they finish drafting the articles of impeachment and present it before committee chairman Reynaldo Umali.

Roque, who during an earlier press conference said he was “hoping for a miracle”, denied insinuations that the House impeached Bautista as “insurance” of his resignation.

“This is the correct process. Resignation is always an option for him,” he added.

Roque said this means that if Bautista resigns before the Senate convenes as an impeachment court, the trial will be moot. Session in Congress is adjourned from October 14 to November 12.  The Senate, however, is still deliberating the proposed 2018 budget. 

Fake resignation? 

Bautista is the first Comelec chairman to be impeached and the first official to be impeached under the Duterte administration.

For Roque, Bautista tried “to buy time” in announcing his resignation set on December 31. “I believe that the 137 want to know the truth behind the allegations,” he said.

Garcia, meanwhile, said the resignation was a “ploy” to encourage legislators to adopt the resolution. Garcia pointed out that Bautista merely resigned via a letter to the Comelec and not to his appointing authority, the President. Bautista, however, also submitted a resignation letter addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Don’t mess with us congressmen and women. If you say something, you do it. Don’t play games,” said Garcia, referring to Bautista’s offer to resign.

Roque had earlier expressed concern that Bautista would still sign contracts related to the 2019 elections between now and December 31, 2017. 

PCGG corruption? 

Voting during plenary session, 137 legislators voted to reject the resolution, 75 voted to adopt it, and another two abstained. At least 98 votes or one-third of the House is needed to reject the dismissal of an impeachment complaint. Most of the 26 regular and ex-officio justice committee members who voted to junk the impeachment complaint also voted to adopt the resolution.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez himself rejected the resolution, citing the “serious” allegations against Bautista.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and former Negros Occidental congressman Jacinto Paras, the petitioners, wanted Bautista impeached because he allegedly failed to be honest in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), and he allegedly failed to prevent and properly address a 2016 data breach.

The SALN allegations stem from accusations from no less than Patricia Bautista, the Comelec chairman’s estranged wife. Paras, speaking before a press conference after the House vote, said he had recently obtained documents from the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) that supposedly showed “grand corruption” during Bautista’s stint as chairman.

Prior to being appointed Comelec chairman, Bautista headed the PCGG, tasked with hunting the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies. – Rappler.com