Impeachment vs Comelec chief better option than inquiry — Fariñas

By , on August 8, 2017


House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas branded as pointless the request for a congressional investigation by Kabayan party-list Rep.   (PNA photo)
House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas branded as pointless the request for a congressional investigation by Kabayan party-list Rep.
(PNA photo)

MANILA, Aug. 8— A ranking House leader on Tuesday rejected calls for a congressional probe into the alleged PHP1-billion unexplained wealth of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Jose Andres Bautista, stressing that an impeachment complaint would be the better course of action.

In a statement sent to reporters, House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas branded as pointless the request for a congressional investigation by Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque and Bautista’s estranged wife Patricia Paz to have him investigated for the alleged unexplained wealth.

“The House probes or investigates impeachable officials through the process of impeachment. Any other proceeding would result in redundancy, as any finding thereof would only be recommendatory,” the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) stalwart said.

The House leader pointed out that if a congressional inquiry finds sufficient ground to proceed against such official, it would resort to impeachment proceedings.

“On the other hand, even if it exonerates such official, the House Committee on Justice will not be bound by it as it is the only committee empowered by the Constitution to do so. The same holds true for any other entity for that matter,” Farinas explained.

On Monday, Roque filed House Resolution No. 1171 to investigate the “shocking revelations” hurled against Bautista by his estranged wife, Ma. Patricia Paz Bautista.

The party-list lawmaker alleged that the revelations have raised serious questions about the integrity of the May 2016 national elections.

“Today, a scandal has rocked the Comelec in the wake of the public revelations by Ms. Patricia ‘Tish’ Paz Bautista that her husband Comelec Chair Jose Andres D. Bautista, has unexplained wealth amounting to nearly PHP1 billion worth, including assets and properties here and abroad that she recently discovered,” Roque said in his resolution.

Roque asked the House of Representatives’ committees on suffrage and good government to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on allegations made by Paz Bautista against her husband.

As detailed in her affidavit to the National Bureau of Investigation, the alleged ill-gotten wealth of her husband that she just recently discovered included several local and foreign bank accounts as well as several pieces of properties that were not declared in the statement of assets and liabilities of Bautista.

Roque said that Mrs. Bautista further alleged that she also has documentary proof that Commissioner Bautista received payoffs from the Divina Law Offices.

The solon pointed out that the law firm allegedly served as counsel to Smartmatic, the Venezuelan elections technology provider that supplied the automated election machines used by Comelec since the May 2010 national elections.

He also pointed out that during the conduct of last year’s elections, Smartmatic was accused of tampering, through a Venezuelan technician, with the script of the Comelec’s transparency server without informing Comelec.

Roque cited Article IX-C of the 1987 Constitution which provides that the Comelec is the principal government agency established, among other things, to enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum, and recall.

“As such, the Comelec is the agency with the gargantuan task of safeguarding the secrecy of the ballot, which is a cornerstone of Philippine democracy. The shocking revelations made by Bautista’s wife has raised serious questions about the integrity of the May 2016 elections,” Roque said.