LOOK: Why petitioners want Comelec chairman Bautista impeached

MANILA, Philippines – What started as an “issue of domestic squabble” could just turn into the biggest crisis for Commission on Election (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista, as the House committee on justice begins tackling a valid impeachment complaint filed against him.

On September 20, Wednesday, the committee, chaired by Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali, will be tackling an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and former Negros Occidental Representative Jacinto Paras, and members of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).

The committee meeting is the first step in many that will evaluate whether the complaint has enough basis – and numbers – to proceed before the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

This would be the 3rd valid impeachment complaint tackled by the committee in two weeks. On September 13, the committee found the first impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno sufficient in both form and substance. The second complaint, filed by the VACC’s Dante Jimenez and Vanguard's Eligio Mallari, was rejected because it was not found sufficient in form.

The Jimenez and Mallari complaint was thumbed down by the committee, 5-28, because it failed to follow the form on verification. The 2nd complaint had apparently used a form for complaints that was endorsed by one-third of the House membership – among the many methods of filing an impeachment complaint.

Jimenez's and Mallari’s complaint was endorsed by only 3 legislators – Kabayan Representative Harry Roque, Cebu 3rd District Representative Gwen Garcia, and Cavite 7th District Representative Abraham Tolentino.

During the same hearing, ranking House leaders quipped that Roque, who voted in favor of the second Sereno impeachment case, did so because of the similarity in form of that complaint and the Bautista complaint. The second Sereno complaint and the Bautista complaint should have contained a verification form that indicates the private complainants' personal knowledge of their allegations.

Days after the Sereno impeachment complaint hearing, Topacio and Paras, filed a substitute verification on the complaint.

In that substitute verification, the two said that the allegations against Bautista are “true and correct of [their] own knowledge or based on authentic records,” according to a release from Roque’s office.

The complaint, upon filing, said that the allegations “are true of our knowledge and belief on the basis of our reading and appreciation of documents and other records pertinent thereto.”

Bautista’s troubles began in early August, when his estranged wife Patricia publicly accused him of amassing ill-gotten wealth and failing to declare properties during his time as Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and later, as Comelec chairman.

Topacio and Paras are citing Patricia Bautista’s allegations and the Comelec chairman’s alleged failure to prevent and respond properly to a data breach incident in 2016.

Here is a copy of the verified impeachment complaint as filed before the House Secretary General:

Here is a copy of the substitute verification filed days after the 2nd Sereno impeachment was rejected:

Bautista, who was appointed PCGG chair in 2010 and Comelec chair in 2015, has denied the allegations of his wife.

He is set to step down as Comelec chairman in 2022 yet. – Rappler.com