Bautista’s impeachment, a warning to Duterte’s enemies

 

By Rose de la Cruz

 

The haste with which the House of Representatives set into motion the process of removing Commission on Election Chairman Andres Bautista by rejecting the justice committee’s resolution junking the impeachment complaint sends a warning signal to all those sitting officials who will not toe the line of President Duterte.

 

And the message that impeachment is an easy and handy tool for this administration to get rid of its enemies fast would definitely come across those whose removal is already in process namely Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

 

Should all three be successfully removed-- on the behest of the President-- this should send a chilling warning to everyone to not cross the line with the sitting Chief Executive.

 

No formal resignation

 

It appears crystal clear now that impeachment, as a tool, would be used at all times so that officials being sought for removal would make the first formal move to vacate the office, not just through press statement or Twitter, as what Bautista did.

 

Bautista made sure he made the headlines last Wednesday by announcing to mainstream and social media, via Twitter, his letter to the Comelec family stating his regret about leaving them after prayerful discernment.

 

By late afternoon that same Wednesday—after Congress got wound of the news online and via television of Bautista’s resignation and without seeing a formal letter of resignation themselves—the lower chamber was called to a secret session, where they voted to overturn the justice committee’s resolution junking the impeachment of Bautista for insufficiency in form.

 

Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia, during session, moved to reject the committee’s resolution arguing that the complaint must be tackled by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court, which Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers agreed with.

 

Votes were cast: 137 rejected the committee resolution, 75 adopted it and two abstained. This all took place a day before Congress was set to adjourn. It will resume session on November 13.

 

Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque insisted that impeachment must push through—despite Bautista’s announced resignation on December 31—because he may still sign contracts related to 2019 elections.

 

Speaker Alvarez said the House could overturn the committee unless Bautista says his resignation is immediately effective.

 

"Because his resignation is not immediate nor official, there is no assurance that he will indeed resign at the end of the year. 2018 is a very crucial year. All the contracts for the 2019 midterm

Senate sets trial for January 2018

 

The upper chamber may yet put into motion the impeachment of Bautista by January 2018.

 

“Expression of intention (to resign) is not actual resignation. But actual resignation will change a lot of things, not the expression of any plan to resign. Kasi otherwise, (kung ganun), pwedeng i-delay lahat just because promise ka lang ng promise,” Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said.

 

“Ayoko makialam sa buhay nya,” Sen. Pimentel added.

 

Even Bautista’s colleague, Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon emphasized the fact that Bautista has not come up with any resignation letter, only a public pronouncement of his intention to resign on Dec. 31 and such means that he can still change his mind and that include resigning earlier.

 

“We are a constitutional independent collegial body. So the chair should send us his resignation letter because it becomes an en banc matter for us to choose who will be the acting chair if he indeed will resign. 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 that is not a resignation letter,” she said.

 

“Hindi ko alam na may resignation sya kasi wala nga kaming na-receive na formal resignation. I just want to emphasize, wala kaming nakuhang resignation letter sa en banc,” Guanzon added.

 

In the event that the Comelec chair tenders his resignation even when the impeachment proceeding is already ongoing, the termination of the trial will be the next logical step.

 

“The proceedings become moot because the purpose of the proceedings is to separate a high official from government service. If he does that (resign), he is in fact separating himself (from the Comelec), then it (impeachment trial) becomes moot,” Sen. Pimentel said.

 

This early though, preparations are already underway and the earliest they can convene as an impeachment court will be sometime during the first week of December, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said.

 

Sen. Pimentel acceded to such assertion saying that some ministerial or administrative matters will have to be attended to by them and these are not crucial issues that could impede the conduct of the trial.

 

 

Even if Congress is on recess, the Articles of Impeachment can be transmitted by the lower house.

 

“Pag natanggap na yung articles, mag ko caucus kami, hopefully I can present to them draft rules para ready na, design ng robe namin, anong material, anong schedule, kailangan ba ng additional staff, kailangan ba kumuha ng consultant trial practitioner ang mga senador para ma guide kami. So all of these things (will be attended to),” he said.

 

Bautista is the third to be impeached by the House of Representatives. First was former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada in December 2000 and 11 years after that of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

 

There were attempts, in the past, to impeach former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, at least twice while she was still a sitting Chief Executive, but did not prosper.

 

Chief Justice Hilario Davide would have been the first SC chief justice to get impeached in 2003 but it was aborted due to some “legal technicalities” as the high court ruled unconstitutional the second complaint against him at it was filed less than a year after the first complaint.

 

The Constitution states that no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.

 

Also in 2011, former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was impeached by the lower house but she resigned 10 days before the Senate could begin the impeachment trial. #

 

 

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