posted August 29, 2017 at 12:01 am
After damning revelations by his wife, Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista now faces an impeachment case before Congress.
Former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio filed a complaint against Bautista for betrayal of public trust for failing to address the hacking of the Comelec website in 2015 and for not disclosing his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
The impeachment complaint, endorsed by Cebu Rep. Gwen Garcia and Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque, also cited Bautista’s admission that he had received referral fees from Smartmatic, the company that provided technology for the 2016 polls, through the Divina Law Office.
Bautista is also accused of obstructing justice for playing down script changes in the transparency server during last year’s election.
The House justice committee said it would act swiftly on the complaint; it appears a trial at the Senate will soon follow.
We don’t look forward to the circus. We’ve seen at least two such trials and they have a way of absorbing the nation’s attention, rightly or wrongly. The fact that Mrs. Bautista may just be called to the stand —spousal privilege can only be invoked in criminal cases, experts say—would just amplify the entertainment factor people can derive from peeking into others’ marital woes.
We are sure Mr. Bautista would not want to take part in this spectacle, too.
The only question we are interested in asking is whether Mr. Bautista compromised the integrity of the elections by acts that unduly enriched him or earned him influence. Outside of that, everything else is noise.
This question, too, will best be determined in a court of law, a trier of facts. Certainly a hearing at the Senate would just muddle the issue, given some lawmakers’ propensity to grandstand. It might entice us with juicy details but establish little about the real national interest that is at stake.
Chairman Bautista should listen to his fellow commissioners and take a leave of absence. Still a better option would be to resign. What befell him, whether or not he is to blame, is most unfortunate, but he must weather his storm on his own—not at the expense of the institution he is mandated to lead. It is unimaginable how anyone can seek to clear his name or come clean about his mistakes while carrying out the daunting tasks of an election chief.
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