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Comelec chief impeached hours after resigning

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Andres Bautista
Comelec chairman Andres Bautista hold a press briefing at the Comelec building in Intramuros Manila on Aug. 7 and denies all the allegation of his wife. -- PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

HOURS after announcing his resignation on Wednesday, Oct. 11, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairperson Andres D. Bautista was impeached by the House of Representatives.

Mr. Bautista is the first head of the poll body to be impeached.

Lawmakers had rejected a report by the House committee on justice that earlier found an impeachment complaint against Mr. Bautista insufficient in form, and was thus, considered dismissed, and thus voted 137 (rejecting the report) against 75 (in favor of the report) and two (abstention).

With the plenary vote rejecting Committee Report No. 429 by the justice committee, and with more than one-third of the 292 House members voting to impeach Mr. Bautista, he was deemed impeached.

The House is expected to prepare the Articles of Impeachment to be sent to the Senate, which will sit as an impeachment court, for trial.

‘PERSONAL REASONS’
Earlier in the day, Mr. Bautista said he was resigning his post “by the end of the year.” He disclosed this decision in a letter to “my Comelec family” dated Wednesday that he posted on social media and in a news conference also that day.

Mr. Bautista, who has been caught up in controversy with his estranged wife over financial and other matters, said in his news conference that he has transmitted to Malacañang his letter citing “personal reasons” for his resignation.

Sought for comment, executive director Ramon C. Casiple of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform said Mr. Bautista’s decision “may not exactly be politically motivated.”

“He knows he cannot be effective anymore as head of Comelec. It does help that his fellow commissioners advised him to either leave or resign. However, I believe him when he cited family reasons,” Mr. Casiple added.

Also sought for comment, Commissioner Ma. Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon also of the poll body said the Comelec en banc has yet to receive Mr. Bautista’s resignation letter.

Ms. Guanzon was among the commissioners who had advised that Mr. Bautista take a leave or resign amid the controversies hounding him.

“It is really a surprise for us kung bakit niya ngayon sinabi at parang biglaan ( why he only announced it now and it seemed so sudden), and personally I thought it was really just a matter of time na magre-resign talaga siya (that he would resign),” Ms. Guanzon said. Ms. Guanzon also said that Mr. Bautista should address his resignation letter to the Commission en banc as the COMELEC is a constitutional independent collegial body. 

She added: “So the chair should send us his resignation letter because it becomes an en banc matter for us to chose kung sino ang magiging (who will be the) acting chair kung mayroon (if there is a) resignation ang chair namin (by our chair).”

“Since none of us received any resignation letter or intent to resign, I just take it like a press release. It’s just an announcement. It just shows his state of mind but as I said that is not a resignation letter,” Ms. Guanzon said.

‘THE MATTER IS MOOT’
For his part, Senate Majority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III said when interviewed by reporters there will be caucuses after the Senate break and prior to Mr. Bautista’s impeachment trial.

Mr. Sotto said the trial may be under way “last week of November of first week of December.”

The Senate resumes sessions on Nov. 13 and will adjourn again on Dec. 16 to Jan. 14 next year.

But Mr. Sotto also added that Mr. Bautista may be called only “after we are organized.” The senator noted further that, in the event of a trial, the “CJ (Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno) is the presiding officer.” Ms. Sereno herself faces the possibility of impeachment.

Also sought for comment, opposition Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said, “Well, the penalty for a conviction in an impeachment trial is removal from office. Since (Mr. Bautista) has resigned effective end of the year, I don’t see any reason why the Senate should convene as an impeachment court.”

“It would be a waste of our time. For all intents and purposes, the matter is moot,” Mr. Pangilinan also said. — main report by interaksyon.com with Mario M. Banzon

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