By Charissa M. Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Justice is ready to tackle the impeachment complaint filed against Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the panel said they are just waiting for the green light from the Office of the Speaker to jumpstart the discussion on the 23-page impeachment complaint lodged by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.
“The complaint was transmitted to the Speaker. It means that there is verification and endorser. We are ready to tackle it (impeachment complaint), the committee is just waiting for it,” he said in a radio interview.
He said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has 10 session days to act on the ouster complaint.
“Within that 10 days period, if the complaint gets more or less 98 endorsers, it will go straight to the Senate. That’s the prerogative of the Speaker of the House,” Umali said.
On August 24, House Secretary General Cesar Pareja transmitted the complaint to the Office of the Speaker after Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, Assistant Minority Leader and Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque, and Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino endorsed Bautista’s impeachment.
Umali said only Bautista’s resignation will stop them from hearing the impeachment complaint.
“Pag nag resign siya, wala ng saysay ang impeachment complaint na ito. (If he resigns, this impeachment complaint will be useless),” he said.
The ouster complaint was filed against Bautista over allegations of P1-billion ill-gotten wealth, irregularities related to the 2016 national elections, and ineptitude in addressing a hacking attack of the Comelec website.
Umali said he is counting on the complainants to provide the necessary documents – authenticated or a certified true copy that would back up their claims.
He said they can subpoena the bank documents and other related documents after the panel votes on the sufficiency in substance and in form of the complaint and that there is determination of probable cause.
When asked if Bautista’s wife, Patricia, can testify against the poll chief considering that the law bars the testimony of wife against husband, Umali said, “that is a decision that the body will have to make. Kasi maraming pananaw dyan. Spousal privilege is only applicable in criminal cases. Ang problema natin, ang impeachment cases are sui generis so it is a class in itself. So it can neither be considered as criminal or administrative or civil. Neither of the three. Again this is a novel issue that has to be considered.”
If the debates intensify as to whether Patricia can testify against Bautista, Umali said he will have refer the issue to the Criminal Rules of Procedure.
“That will be part of what will guide the members in making his or her vote for purposes of determining whether it is sufficient in form, substance and in the determination of probable cause,” he said.
He said the committee members would vote for Bautista’s impeachment if it is proven that indeed, he betrayed public trust and violated the Constitution.
The filing of the ouster complaint was made after Bautista’s wife, Patricia claimed that the poll chief has unexplained wealth close to P1 billion, which is not included in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).
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