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Andy Bautista gets one-year reprieve

Ed JavierCommission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista can now heave a sigh of relief, at least for one year, after the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives dismissed the impeachment complaint filed against him for being insufficient in form.

According to the Committee chaired by Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali, the panel declared the impeachment complaint insufficient in form because of its defective verification, a basis used in previous decisions by the committee.

Umali said the dismissal of the case against Bautista was consistent with the decision his panel made throwing out the second impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno filed by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).

He said his committee agreed in May when it threw out the complaint filed by Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo against President Duterte that it would no longer be liberal in treating cases that are defective in form.

As a result of the committee›s decision, Bautista’s critics will have to wait for the one-year prohibition on filing of a complaint to expire before they can file another impeachment complaint against him.

The law says no impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.

It will be recalled that an impeachment complaint was filed against Bautista for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution over allegations of ill-gotten wealth.

The complaint was filed by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyers Ferdinand Topacio and was endorsed by Representatives Gwen Garcia, Abraham Tolentino and Harry Roque.

Bautista’s woes began when his estranged wife Patricia, accused her husband of amassing hundreds of millions in pesos in unexplained wealth during his term as Comelec chairman.

She also submitted documents proving her claims to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last month.

Bautista denied the allegations made by Patricia, even accusing her of stealing cash, ATM cards and other documents in their posh condominium unit at Bonifacio Global City.

It’s such a pity that this bright man has to go through all of these. We considered him as one of former President Aquino’s more inspired choices when it comes to appointees to public office.

Prior to Comelec, Chairman Bautista was also Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the body principally tasked to recover ill-gotten wealth of former President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies.

During his PCGG stint, he recommended its abolition.

He said that “It’s been years and people you are after are back in power. At some point, you just have to say, ‘We’ve done our best,’ and that’s that. It is really difficult. In order now to be able to get these monies back, you need to spend a lot.”

Bautista explained that it would be more cost-effective at this point to transfer the job of investigating and prosecuting criminal cases exercised by the PCGG to the Department of Justice.

He also said it would be better to designate the privatization office under the Department of Finance to be the custodian of “all sequestered real and personal assets and properties previously under the control and management of the PCGG.”

True enough, an honest-to-goodness cost-benefit analysis would most likely reveal that the task of going after the Marcos wealth is best left to the DOJ and the DOF to avoid overlapping of functions and save on scarce government resources.

We were surprised but we were glad to hear this suggestion from Bautista himself. Seldom do we see public officials declaring that it is alright to be stripped of a high-profile government position with all its perks and privileges attached to it.

Before he joined government, Bautista also held a high-paying job at the private sector as the Philippine Chief Executive Officer of the Kuok Group, owner of the upscale Shangri-la chain of hotels.

This former Dean of the Far Eastern University’s Institute of Law became a bar topnotcher after graduating class valedictorian from the Ateneo Law School. He obtained his Master of Laws from Harvard University in 1993.

We hope Chairman Bautista can prove that he is innocent against all the accusations being thrown at him by his estranged wife.

As a gentle warning to all the husbands out there, let me just quote the famous line coined by English playwright and poet William Congreve : “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

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