House prepares to impeach Andy

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THE chairman of the House committee on justice vowed Sunday to act swiftly on the impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista.

“The complaint was transmitted to the Speaker [Pantaleon Alvarez].  It means that there is verification and [an] endorser.  We are ready to tackle it. The committee is just waiting for it,” said Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the panel.

“Within that 10-day period, if the complaint gets 98 endorsers [or more], it will go straight to the Senate. That’s the prerogative of the House Speaker,” he added.

Bautista’s wife, Patricia Paz, who accused her husband of amassing close to P1 billion in undeclared wealth, can still be summoned because spousal privilege is only applicable in criminal cases, not during an impeachment, Umali said.

“This is a novel issue that has to be considered,” he said.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista

The impeachment complaint against Bautista was filed by former Negros Oriental lawmaker Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio. They accused him of betrayal of public trust over his failure to address the hacking of the Comelec website in March 2015 and for failing to properly disclose all his assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

They also said Bautista admitted that he had received referral fees from Comelec’s technology provider Smartmatic through the Divina Law Office, and was guilty of obstructing justice when he played down script changes in the transparency server during the 2016 elections. 

The complaint was endorsed by Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Gwen Garcia and Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque. 

On Sunday, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon told radio dzBB that she advised Bautista to take care of his family and go on leave.

“I told him, you’re not getting any sleep. You focus on your family then explain where all that money came from. That’s all I told him,” she said in Filipino.

Guanzon and other commissioners on Thursday urged Bautista to take a leave or resign, saying he could no longer adequately fulfill his duties as Comelec chairman.

“If you have personal problems, you should take a leave. Because it’s unfair to the public, and unfair to the government if you can no longer function yet stay in your post and not do the work,” she continued.

On Wednesday, Bautista missed a congressional budget hearing at the House because he took his four children to meet with guidance counselors.

Guanzon said their advice for Bautista to go on leave or quit was not personal.

“It’s not like he’s down and we’re kicking him,” she said. “This isn’t personal. It’s for the Comelec and for the country.”

Bautista’s estranged wife had accused him of accumulating unexplained wealth amounting to almost P1 billion.

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