Lagman: Drafting of articles of impeachment vs Bautista 'premature'

ALBAY Representative Edcel Lagman said Thursday that it was "premature" to require the House committee on justice to prepare the articles of impeachment against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Juan Andres Bautista considering that there is no determination yet that the complaint filed is sufficient in form and substance.

On Wednesday, an overwhelming vote of 137 congressmen overturned the report of the House committee on justice finding the impeachment complaint against Bautista insufficient in form.

After the voting, the committee was directed to draft the articles of impeachment for transmittal to the Senate by November.

In a statement, Lagman said the House of Representatives should order to hear anew the complaints against Bautista in the committee level.

He cited Section 11 of Rule III of the House Rules on Impeachment, which stated that the decision of the House to overturn the committee report presupposes that the recommendation is based on the insufficiency of the complaint, lack of sufficient grounds or absence of probable cause.

"When the recommendation for dismissal is due to insufficiency in form, which is rejected by at least one-third of the membership of the House, the plenary must perforce refer back the impeachment complaint to the committee on justice for further proceedings," Lagman said.

There's no need for such if at least one-third of the House membership endorses the impeachment complaint or signs the articles of impeachment, said Lagman.

He believes there is "inordinate haste" on the part of the administration to remove Bautista from his post as President Rodrigo Duterte wants to put in position his own appointee at the Comelec.

During the committee hearings, the justice panel found that the complaint filed by former Negros Oriental Representatives Jacinto Paras and lawyers Ferdinand Topacio and Manuelito Luna failed to comply with the House's rules that it must be based on authentic records.

Hours before the House voted to proceed with his impeachment, Bautista announced his resignation effective December 31, 2017.

But senators said Bautista is not yet off the hook until he submits proof that he was serious about quitting his job at the Comelec.

Several senators said they will just wait for the official transmittal of the House impeachment complaint against Bautista and will decide if they will proceed to the convening of the Senate as an impeachment court.

Senator Francis Escudero said only Bautista's formal resignation can stop the Senate from convening as a trial court.

Escudero said that even if the Comelec chief resigns, he will proceed with his probe into the alleged questionable 35 bank accounts of Bautista in Luzon Development Bank.

"But the investigation on his 35 bank accounts at Luzon Development Bank will still proceed as scheduled," Escudero, who chairs the Senate committee on banks financial institutions and currency committee, said.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III said the Senate will have to tackle the impeachment of Bautista mid-November when sessions resume.

The Senate was scheduled to adjourn Thursday, October 12 and will resume session on November 13.

'No need for trial'

But Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III and opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan said there is no need for a trial against Bautista if he will step down willingly from his post.

Pimentel cited the case of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez who resigned from her post before any impeachment was done by Congress.

Pimentel said if the resignation is real, the effort to convene the Senate as an impeachment court is already a futile effort.

The Senate President said that a certified true copy of Bautista's resignation will be the basis for the Senate to stop convening as an impeachment court.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said that Bautista's resignation is prospective and not yet in effect and once the impeachment complaint is transmitted to the Senate and his resignation is not yet in effect, the Senate has no option but to proceed with the trial of the Comelec Chief.

Pangilinan, on the contrary, thinks there is no need for the Senate to convene as an impeachment court since Bautista had expressed his resignation.

"It would be a waste of our time. For all intents and purposes, the matter is moot," he said in a statement. (SunStar Philippines)