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Ex-solon, lawyer file impeachment complaint vs Comelec chief Bautista

Atty. Ferdinand Topacio and  former Rep. Jacinto Paras sign the impeachment complaint they filed against Comelec Chair Andres Bautista. Pantaleon Alvarez/Released

MANILA, Philippines (First published 4:50 p.m.) — A former congressman and the lawyer of an anti-crime group on Wednesday filed an impeachment complaint against poll chief Andres Bautista for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

The complaint stemmed from allegations from his estranged wife that Commission on Elections Chairman Bautista has wealth not that he did not disclose in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth, a document that government workers are required to submit yearly.

Bautista is also accused of betraying public trust when he allegedly failed to adopt safeguards that could have prevented the data breach or hacking of his agency’s website.

“He miserably failed to adopt adequate safeguards as mandated under Republic Act No. 10173 or the ‘Data Privacy Act of 2012,’ that could have prevented the data breach or hacking of the Comelec website, to the great prejudice and damage of millions of Filipinos,” the complainants alleged.

READ: Poll chief Bautista liable for 'Comeleak', privacy body finds

Another ground that was cited by the complainants was the alleged Bautista’s betrayal of public trust for failing to “promptly act” on the hacking of the Comelec website. They added that Bautista neglected his duties and responsibilities when he declined to assume “direct control and supervision” of the task force tasked to look into the poll body’s data breach.

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The Comelec chairman is also accused of obstruction of justice.

“[He] obstructed justice when he cleared Smartmatic and Comelec IT specialists of any wrongdoing for the so-called script tweak during the consolidation/canvassing of results in the May 2016 election,” the complaint read.

Paras and Topacio alleged that this was in effect an “exoneration” of the said specialists pending the results of the probe.

READ: Smartmatic cleared in server script alteration

The complaint filed by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer for the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, was endorsed by three members of the House: Rep. Abraham Tolentino (7th District Cavite), Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia (3rd District Cebu) and Rep. Harry Roque (Kabayan Party-list).

Tolentino — brother of presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino — and Garcia are members of the administration PDP-Laban party. Roque, meanwhile, is from the minority bloc, which has been generally supportive of the Duterte administration

Their endorsement fulfills the first requirement for an impeachment complaint to move forward at the House, where all impeachment complaints originate.

“We hereby resolve to endorse, as we hereby endorse, the attached verified complaint by Jacinto V. Paras and Ferdinand S. Topacio, and strongly recommend that the same be given due course by the House of Representatives,” the resolution of the three solons read.

Patricia Bautista, the estranged wife of the Comelec chief, claimed that her husband had more than P1 billion in undeclared wealth. She presented property and bank documents purportedly showing the undeclared assets of the poll chief.

Bautista’s declared net worth on his SALN is only P176 million.

Comelec chief claims extortion, political motives

Bautista dismissed all these allegations and described them as “fabricated lies.” He also filed a case for grave coercion, qualified theft and robbery and extortion in the form of grave and life threats against his wife.

The Comelec chief also hinted that politics may be behind all these issues as some of his family members had received impeachment threats even before Patricia revealed the allegations in public.

He said that they also received a copy of a draft impeachment complaint that would be filed should he refuse to accept the demands of his estranged wife.

“And again, talagang to pressure me, na sinasabing ‘Hoy ‘pag hindi ka nagbayad mai-impeach ka na,’” he said in a recent television interview.

Omissions in one’s SALN can lead to his impeachment, just like in the case of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was eventually convicted by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.

The former chief justice was impeached allegedly for failing to declare US dollar accounts he had in his SALN. Critics however complained that there was no basis for the impeachment and that he was just a victim of political persecution by former President Benigno Aquino III.

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