Manila Standard Today - Bautista, Gutierrez and Corona

12 October 2017

By Jojo Robles | Manila Standard Today 

There will be no long goodbyes for Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista. Unless, of course, he decides to take his chances and face an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Bautista, in a surprise move, declared in a letter to the employees of Comelec yesterday that he was resigning by the end of the year. Previously, Bautista hailed the dismissal by the House committee on justice of the impeachment complaint filed against him earlier on the basis of insufficiency in form and vowed to fight any moves to remove him.

But just hours after Bautista declared that he was quitting, the full House voted to reject the report of the justice committee headed by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali. In a vote of 137 to dismiss, 75 to uphold and with two abstaining, the House effectively impeached Bautista.

This means that the House, voting in plenary, overruled Umali’s committee and impeached Bautista by coming up with more than the one-third vote needed under the law to do so. Around 100 congressmen must vote in favor of Bautista’s impeachment for the complaint to be transmitted to the Senate, which will then convene itself into an impeachment court.

What does this all mean? Well, it means that the House, whose members must know that Bautista had already declared that he was resigning before they voted on his impeachment late yesterday, probably want to him to follow in the footsteps of Merceditas Gutierrez, the former Ombudsman.

Gutierrez was impeached by the House on March 22, 2011. Instead of facing an impeachment court, Gutierrez opted to resign, announcing that she was quitting on April 29, with her resignation taking effect on May 6.

I remember that the Senate was already preparing to convert itself into an impeachment court right before Gutierrez quit. The senator-judges had already had their judicial robes made and were boning up on impeachment law and procedure when the Ombudsman resigned.

Their efforts were not wasted, however, because they got to wear their robes and pretend to be actual judges by the end of that same year, after Chief Justice Renato Corona was also impeached by the House on Dec. 12. On May 29, 2012, Corona was convicted by the Senate on the decidedly flimsy charge of not properly declaring his assets and liabilities.

The Corona impeachment trial should resonate with Bautista, as well. After all, if the chief justice was removed on the grounds of failing to accurately report his net worth—an offense that most legal experts concede can be easily “cured” without ousting him—the Comelec chief must realize that he may not be able to survive a trial where his own wife, using evidence of hidden bank accounts allegedly containing billions of pesos, will testify against him.

Bautista could resign like Gutierrez, who was never tried because she quit before her trial could start. Or he could follow Corona, who was publicly humiliated and unjustly convicted by a Senate kangaroo court that did not really follow the Marquis of Queensberry rules.

It’s Bautista’s choice, really.

* * *

Here I must insist that there is a lot more evidence against Bautista than against either Gutierrez or Corona, who were both impeached simply because both Houses of Congress wanted so much to please then President Noynoy Aquino. The vengeful Noynoy, after all, did everything in his power to remove those two appointees of his predecessor, Gloria Arroyo, even bribing lawmakers with his Disbursement Acceleration Program in order to make it happen.

I am convinced that there is more evidence, as well, to convict Bautista in an impeachment trial than against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. This doesn’t mean, however, that if the Senate actually gets to try Sereno’s case, it will not be able to convict and remove her, if it will do to her what it did to Corona five years ago.

Bautista’s impeachment is even more important than Sereno’s, to me, because the subsequent trial may be able to shed much-needed light on what really happened during the national elections last year, which the Comelec chairman supervised. That last election was so fraud-marred that, with the exception of President Rodrigo Duterte, practically all the current holders of the major elective positions do so under a cloud of doubt.

As a voter and a taxpayer, I certainly would like Bautista to explain before an impeachment court now only how he amassed huge sums of money in obscure bank accounts, but also how Comelec and its automation partner Smartmatic made perennial survey tail-ender Mar Roxas second after Duterte, Leni Robredo vice president over Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and Franklin Drilon and Joel Villanueva Senate topnotchers, to name just a few of the questionable results of last year’s polls. If Bautista resigns, we will all be deprived of that information.

But who knows? Maybe Bautista will not amend his resignation letter and decide to fight it out before an impeachment court.

I guess we’ll need Divine Intervention for that to happen, given Bautista’s claims that God actually gives him career advice. We can only pray that God talks to Andy Bautista once again.