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All-party caucus decided Bautista’s fate: Fariñas

A closed-door all-party caucus was held to decide the political fate of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista hours before his impeachment was put to a vote in the House plenary.

This was confirmed by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas on Thursday.

“The impeachment of Chairman Bautista was the decision that we arrived at during our caucus yesterday that I convened precisely for that purpose,” Fariñas said.

In a 137-75-2 vote, House members on Wednesday overturned the Justice Committee’s report dismissing the impeachment complaint filed by former congressman Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.

This means the impeachment proceedings against Bautista will have to push through despite his planned resignation by yearend.

With the override, the Justice Committee was directed to draft the articles of impeachment, which will be transmitted to Senate for trial.

Fariñas, who despite leading the caucus, raised the motion to adopt the adverse committee report and voted for the dismissal of the impeachment complaint.

He explained that under the House rules, lawmakers who had voted in favor of a committee report, “without any reservation or qualification”, is not allowed to vote against it in the plenary.

“Thus, we had to maintain our vote in favor of the Report, even if we were already in favor of impeachment. Same with (Justice Committee) Chairman (Reynaldo) Umali,” he said.

“The Speaker (and those who voted with him) and we who voted in favor of the Report, did not really have any real difference as the decision to impeach was made by us, but there were members like me who could no longer vote against the Report,” Fariñas added.

Last week, the Justice panel approved with a 26-2 vote the committee report and accompanying resolution finding the impeachment complaint insufficient in form due to its defective verification.

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.

Filane Mikee Cervantes / PNA