Daily Tribune - Congressional probe on poll chair a must

10 August 2017

By Ninez Cacho-Olivares | Daily Tribune 

Poll chief Andres Bautista may be an impeachable officer, but given the precedents, he certainly can be investigated — and by the Department of Justice through the National Bureau of Investigation, the Ombudsman, the Senate and the House of Representatives, on the basis of allegations leveled against him by his estranged wife, Patricia.

The question then is, why are some members of Congress, both in the House and the Senate, opposing moves to have Bautista investigated by Congress?

In the Senate, it was Sen. Franklin Drilon, Senate Minority Leader, along with Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the blue ribbon committee, who aired their opposition to the move of Majority Leader Tito Sotto to hold a probe on Bautista on allegations that he has at least P1 billion in assets and that some of these had not been included in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and net worth (SALn). Mrs. Bautista also made the rounds of media and showed some documents to substantiate her allegations.

Her husband was not too far off, as he also made the rounds of media, held press conferences, and portrayed himself as the victim. He has also filed a case of extortion, coercion and almost everything else against his wife.

The both of them have been airing their dirty laundry in public, and the more the couple accuse each other of their “sins” through allegations from both sides, the more the public is divided, with the question left hanging: Who between the two is telling the truth?

If it is Patricia, the wife, who is telling the truth, then it would be best for the Senate and the House to probe this matter, mainly because the poll chief is a government official, and money is involved, along with other allegations of his having received commissions.

More importantly, there is now raised a huge cloud of doubt over the results of the 2016 national elections that have resurfaced.

An investigation is definitely in order.

An investigation can also provide an opportunity for the husband of Patricia, to clear his name and put to rest all these allegations leveled against him by his wife.

Once cleared, there can hardly be an impeachment case filed against the poll chief.

But Drilon and Gordon, along with House Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas oppose a probe on the poll chief, saying he is an impeachable officer.

Yet Drilon seems to forget that neither he nor the Liberal Party allies opposed a year-long Senate investigation on then sitting Vice President Jojo Binay, an impeachable official.

The trio then in probing Binay were Sen. Antonio Trillanes, then Sen. Alan Cayetano, now foreign affairs chief, and Sen. Koko Pimentel.

Why then was it right for the Senate, through the three senators, to probe Binay, especially when their intent was not even to hold the probe in aid of legislation but to completely destroy the then VP’s chances of winning the presidential post, as he was then the frontrunner in the pre-election polls?

Similarly, the Senate held an investigation on allegations of jueteng lord Chavit Singson, who lied through his teeth with claims that then sitting President Erap Estrada received jueteng money, even fabricating evidence of a ledger written by him.

Estrada was an impeachable officer, yet he was probed by the Senate. He also stood trial, but not having the numbers to convict him, these yellows mounted a coup against him, aided by the US government and the unprofessional Philippine military under Angelo Reyes.

Drilon’s assertions on the possible conflict of the upper chamber’s jurisdiction in probing the charges against Bautista being an official subject to impeachment, just don’t wash, given the precedents.

Majority Leader Sotto said Drilon is mistaken. “Let’s not think that holding a hearing on the allegations against the Comelec chair is not right which may raise the public suspicions that we are hiding possible fraud in the just held 2016 elections,” said Sotto.

Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies, backed Sotto’s move to have Bautista subjected to a probe by the Senate blue ribbon committee.

Sotto, in further justifying his call for a probe, said they will be looking into the ease of filing SALn and how government officials go around it.

“I don’t care if the Comelec chair if guilty or not. This is in aid of legislation, unlike what they did to VP Binay,” Sotto added.

Well said, Senator Sotto.