Abella: Palace hands-off on Bautista impeachment case

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella.

MANILA — Malacañang on Thursday distanced itself from the impending impeachment of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista, saying that impeachment is the sole prerogative of Congress.

In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said it is up to Congress to decide on how to proceed with Bautista’s impeachment, considering his planned resignation at the end of the year.

“Well, Congress shall decide what to do with this impeachment in view of his resignation. So basically we have no comment regarding that. That’s beyond our purview. That belongs to the Congress to decide on,” Abella said.

Bautista on Wednesday announced his resignation citing “personal reasons.”

He said his resignation is effective December 31, 2017 to give President Rodrigo Duterte sufficient time to choose his replacement as well as to ensure a smooth and orderly transition within the commission.

But just hours after announcing his resignation, the House of Representatives moved to have Bautista impeached in a 137-75-2 vote.

The poll chief is accused of amassing ill-gotten wealth and receiving “referral fees” from election technology contractor Smartmatic among others.

The plenary voting came after the House Justice Committee voted 26-2 to junk the impeachment complaint for insufficiency in form.

According to Section 11, Article 3 of the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings, “a vote of at least one-third (1/3) of all the Members of the House shall be necessary to override such resolution, in which case the Committee on Justice shall forthwith prepare the Articles of Impeachment.”

The 137 votes for Bautista’s impeachment is more than the one-third threshold (98 lawmakers) required by the rules.

Bautista will be the first official to be impeached under the Duterte administration.

In the meantime, Abella said Malacañang acknowledged Bautista’s services, having served as poll chief since May 2015.

“We acknowledge the services of the chairman and after his successor is named, we look forward to a smooth transition and preparations for barangay and SK Elections next year, for midterm polls, and if possible, BBL and Charter Change plebiscites in 2019,” Abella said.