House panel formally junks impeach complaint vs Bautista

MANILA — The House of Representatives’ Justice Committee on Thursday approved a committee report formally junking the impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista due to insufficiency in form.

Voting 26-2, the panel approved the committee report and accompanying resolution finding the impeachment complaint, filed by former congressman Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, insufficient in form due to its defective verification.

The committee initially voted 19 lawmakers in favor, and only two against it.

However, Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas moved to reconsider the vote since the requirement of affirmative votes in a committee report calls for the majority of all the total members of the committee.

The justice committee is composed of at least 50 members, according to its chair Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali.

Umali said the report will be transmitted to the House plenary and can still be “overturned” via a vote of one-third of the House members.

In case it is overturned, the Justice Committee shall be constrained to draft the articles of impeachment and will then be transmitted to Senate for trial.

The complainants attempted to cure the defect by filing a motion to admit a substitute verification, but this was rejected by the committee members.

Paras and Topacio sought the ouster of Bautista on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

The complainants said Bautista betrayed public trust for his failure to prevent the data breach or hacking of the Comelec website, failure to properly declare his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), and reported receipt of referral fees from the Divina Law firm.