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The Manila Times - Junking of impeach raps against Bautista designed to protect electoral fraud?

News & Interviews
26 September 2017

By Al Vitangcol III | The Manila Times 

IT’S happened again. The House of Representatives’ committee on justice has dumped the impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista, filed by former representative Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, for being “insufficient in form”. Last week the same committee also junked the impeachment complaint of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno for the same reason.

In my previous column, I discussed how an impeachment complaint is tested in terms of sufficiency in form.
The requirement of form is met if the written complaint contains the principal necessary matters, the proper technical terms and phrases and whatever else is necessary to make it formally correct. It should be arranged in proper and methodical order, and capable of being adapted as the House’s version of the Articles of Impeachment.

I likewise mentioned that the complaint’s “verification” is not anchored on the “personal knowledge” phrase alone but equally on the “authentic records” phrase. Conformably, I wrote that there should be a statement in the verification to this effect—“I have read and understood its contents, which are true and correct based on my own personal knowledge or on authentic records”.

Early this week Paras and Topacio amended their complaint and filed a substitute verification that “the allegations therein are true of our own knowledge or based on authentic records”. However, this came too late. Some committee members were of the opinion that a substitute verification was an admission that the original verification was fatally defective.

What is the effect of this? Bautista is effectively shielded from any impeachment for a period of one year, as mandated by the Constitution. Its Article XI, Section 3 (5) states that, “No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.”

What a waste. Those who hurry in haste to file the first impeachment complaint against any public official should make sure that their complaint will pass the sufficiency test. Otherwise, they are doing the public a disservice – by allowing an impeachable officer to go scot-free for another year.

Rumors have it that the junking of the impeachment complaint against Bautista was designed to conceal the alleged electoral fraud that happened in 2016. Apparently, Bautista will name names during his impeachment trial. Of course, those who allegedly paid for their elective positions would not want this to happen.

Proclamation 319

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday signed Proclamation 319 declaring September 21 as a National Day of Protest. Memorandum Circular No. 26 was likewise issued suspending work in government offices and classes in public schools in observance of the National Day of Protest.

Are we Filipinos not yet tired of protesting? We protest everything but to naught.

We protest about the high prices of fuel. We protest about the escalating electricity charges but we tolerate the excesses of the Energy Regulatory Commission. We protest the daily heavy vehicular traffic. Yet, we allow the traffic managers and regulators to implement and adopt traffic schemes that are devoid of sense and sensibilities.

We complain about the lack of motor vehicle plates and drivers’ license cards. However, we don’t give a damn as to how these projects are awarded to non-complying contractors. We criticize the conduct of our automated elections at the top of our voices. Nonetheless, nobody listens to these lamentations.

We oppose corruption in the judiciary and the prosecutorial agencies of the government. Still, we bow to these magistrates and prosecutors as if they are gods.

Why not take a breather? Instead of protesting, let us show some thanks. Thanksgiving is a grateful acknowledgment of the blessings and favors that one had received the preceding year, especially to God.
Do you know that at present we do not have a day set apart to celebrate thanksgiving? We shunned celebrating thanksgiving since 1986 – courtesy of then President Corazon Aquino.

From 1901 to 1935, the Philippines, being an American colony, celebrated thanksgiving every fourth
Thursday of November, to coincide with America’s Thanksgiving Day. During the Commonwealth period, President Manuel Quezon continued to declare Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday. After World War 2, succeeding Presidents from Sergio Osmeña Sr. to Ferdinand Marcos continued the practice of celebrating Thanksgiving Day as a special public holiday.

After the proclamation of Martial Law in 1972, Marcos moved Thanksgiving Day to September 21 from the customary fourth Thursday of November. Cory Aquino, upon assumption of power in 1986 put a stop to the thanksgiving celebration.

This is the present state that we are in. We whine and protest instead of giving thanks for all our blessings. It is believed that the universe will keep hitting you with the same lessons in cycle until you learn. But, Filipinos never learn—we just keep on protesting.

John Wooden, the legendary American basketball coach, said: “Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.”

People can positively transform their lives if they shift from protesting to giving thanks for their blessings. It’s about time we celebrate Thanksgiving Day again.