Impeachment complaint filed against Comelec chief

MANILA – An impeachment complaint has been filed against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Andres Bautista for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and former Congressman Jacinto Paras filed the complaint before the House of Representatives on Wednesday, August 23.

The complaint stemmed from allegations of the Comelec chief’s estranged wife, Patricia Paz Bautista, that he had about one billion pesos of undeclared wealth in his 2016 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

“It is crystal clear that Bautista illegally acquired these assets as they are disproportionate to his salary as a public official; besides, his non-reporting of the same in his SALN further lends credence to the allegations that they are ill-gotten,” the complaint read.

Topacio and Paras claimed that Bautista failed to declare his several bank accounts, condominium units in Taguig city and California, and other foreign investments in his SALN.

Bautista was also accused of betraying public trust when he failed to prevent the incident dubbed as “Comeleak,” wherein the agency’s website was hacked resulted to the leak of voters’ personal data in 2016.

The complainants further stressed that Bautista failed to “promptly act” on the hacking incident, adding that he neglected his duties and responsibilities when he declined to assume “direct control and supervision” of the task force assigned to check the leak.

They likewise claimed that the Comelec chief obstructed justice when he cleared Smartmatic and Comelec IT specialists of any wrongdoing for the so-called “script tweak” during the consolidation or canvassing of results in the May 2016 elections.

“Such action constitutes betrayal of public trust… Obviously, Bautista is unworthy and undeserving of the office of Chairman, Commission on Elections, and should be impeached. No less than six commissioners of the Commission had denounced his ‘failed leadership’ and other transgressions,” the complaint further read.

Their complaint was endorsed by Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia, Kabayan partylist Rep. Harry Roque, and Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino.

“I wouldn’t have endorsed it without the assurance from Mrs. Bautista that on the hearings she will appear and attest to the truthfulness of his affidavit and bring all the documentary evidence she mentioned in her complaint affidavit,” Roque said.

Meanwhile, Tolentino said he endorsed the complaint to give the Comelec chief an opportunity to to clear his name and refute the allegations against him.

Garcia, for her part, said now is the right time to check the “veracity” and “credibility” of the automated voting system.

Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on banks, said Bautista will be summoned in the committee’s next hearing on money laundering to “shed light on this issue or in the absence thereof to submit a waiver to the bank so that the hearings can proceed without legal stumbling blocks.”

The committee also asked the Comelec chief to sign a waiver on secrecy of bank deposits, as Section 3 of Republic Act 1405 prohibits banks to disclose details on any bank account without written waiver from the concerned depositor.

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