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Legal Research

St. Thomas More School of Law and Business

LLB 1

Resignation to Impeachment:
COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautistas
Impeachment Rap, Moot or not?

Submitted by:
John Rey Abellanida

Submitted to:
Atty. Devona Jumamil
The Facts:

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista is accused of betrayal of public trust


and culpable violation of the Constitution for "grossly neglecting his duties" as
head of the Comelec. These are grounds for officials to be impeached under the
1987 Constitution.1

Complainants said Bautista failed to prevent the leak of the personal data of
millions of voters prior to the May 2016 polls. They said Bautista also failed to
promptly act on the hacking of the Comelec website. 2

They added, Bautista must be ousted for saying the suspicious new script
or command that was fed to the Comelec's transparency server during the
transmission and counting of the 2016 election results was merely a "cosmetic
change," which will not affect the election results. This is in effect exonerating
those responsible for the alteration even before proper investigation, complainants
said. 2

Finally, Bautista is accused of misdeclarations in his Statements of Assets,


Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN). 2

The Comelec chair consistently denied the allegations made by his wife,
even accusing her of stealing cash, ATM cards and other documents in November
2016. 2

The impeachment complaint was filed by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and


former Negros Occidental representative Jacinto Paras, who are members of the
Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC). The House justice committee
on September 20, junked a verified impeachment complaint against Chairman
Andres Bautista after finding it insufficient in form. 3

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1CONSTITUTION, Art. XI, Sec. 2

2Bea Cupin, LOOK: Why petitioners want Comelec chairman Bautista impeached, (https://www.rappler.com)

3 Bea Cupin, House panel junks Bautista impeachment complaint, (https://www.rappler.com)


However on October 11, 2017, Comelec chairman Andres Bautista sent
separate letters to his colleagues and to the President stating his intention to resign
at the year end. But the plenary on the same day, voted to override a motion to
adopt the decision of the House justice committee to junk the impeachment
complaint against Bautista.4

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in an interview shortly after the plenary


vote that Bautista could avoid a Senate impeachment trial if he resigned
immediately. However, there was no indication that Bautista would advance the
effectivity of his resignation. In a statement, he said he was prepared to defend
himself at any venue with the right process because this will also give me the
chance to clear my name. 4

The Issue:

Whether or not the Articles of Impeachment against Comelec Chairman


Andres Bautista issued by the Committee on Justice of congress to the senate
should proceed.

Legal Opinion:

Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista, whether he resigns or


not, will go down in Philippine history as the first poll chairman to be impeached
by Congress. The only way out for Bautista now is to file his immediate and
irrevocable resignation before the Senate, sitting as the impeachment court,
decides on his fate. 5

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4Jocelyn Uy, House impeaches Comelec chief after he said he was resigning, (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net)
5 Tribune Wires, Bautista is history, (http://tribune.net.ph)
Under Section 1, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution, it declares that Public
office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be
accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity,
loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.
Impeachment is therefore a necessary safeguard to ensure that public officers have
the moral fitness and integrity to fulfill their mandate. 6

In this case, the impeachment proceedings will be moot and academic if he


makes good on his intention to resign when the impeachment trial has yet to be
completed. The impeachment trial will be put to naught if he resigns from his post,
even if the trial proceeding is ongoing, it will effectively be put to a halt the
moment Bautista resigns from his post. It will be put to a stop because the aim of
the impeachment is to remove him from his position. If hes no longer in his post,
then theres no need to proceed with the trial. The moment he is out of the
Comelec, Bautista will be a private citizen and any or all possible cases can be filed
against him.

Expression of intention to resign is not an actual resignation. But actual


resignation will change a lot of things, not the expression of any plan to resign.
Otherwise, everything will be delayed base a promise to resign. In the case of
Intertrod Maritime, Inc. v. NLRC, [1991], resignation is a voluntary act of the
employee which is beyond the control of the employer. 7

Once accepted by the employer, the employee loses his right to the job. The
Labor Code also recognizes resignation in Article 285 (a) which states:

An employee may terminate without just cause the employee-employer


relationship by serving a written notice on the employer at least one month in
advance. The employer upon whom no such notice was served may hold the
employee liable for damages. 8

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6CONSTITUTION, Art. XI, Sec. 1


7275 Phil. 351 (1991)
8LABOR CODE, Art. 285 (a)
A resignation may also be either express, as when contained in a written
document, or implied, as can be inferred from the acts of the employee concerned.
Also, to constitute a resignation, it must be unconditional and with the intent to
operate as such. It was also applied by Supreme Court and upheld the legitimacy
of the Arroyo presidency by denying the petition filed by deposed President
Joseph Estrada. The Court ruled for the dismissal of Estradas petition was the
effective resignation of Erap on January 20 as shown by the entries of then
Executive Secretary Edgardo Angaras diary. 9

According to the news reports, the letter of intent to resign was issued by
Bautista only to the Comelec collegial body. A formal resignation letter was not
yet issued to the president and it was only verbally conveyed by Bautista himself
to the executive secretary. His intent to resign in the end of this year do not bar the
ability of the Congress to initiate an impeachment complaint. Senator Kiko
Pangilinan said that the impeachment proceeding file in the Congress was a waste
time. Senator Vicente Sotto III also added that if the Honorable President confirms
his resignation, the Senate will no longer proceed with the impeachment trial
which I strongly disagree. 10

I think its better that the impeachment should proceed because its effect is
different from mere resignation. First, Bautista will be removed from his office.
Second, he cannot occupy any government position anymore. And third, the
public deserves to know the truth about the alleged ill-gotten wealth and culpable
violations of the constitution. Furthermore in the impeachment case with regards
to late Chief Justice Renato Corona, the Supreme Court ruled the importance of
the Article XI, Section 17 of the Constitution which requires all public officers and
employees to submit a declaration under oath of assets, liabilities and net worth,
with an additional requirement for our highest officials, that the declaration shall
be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law. A prime objective

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9406 Phil. 1
10Jocelyn Uy, No more Senate impeachment trial for poll chief, says Sotto, (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net)
of the framers of the 1987 Constitution in requiring a SALN was to strengthen the
accountability of all public servants and to root out the persistent problem of
corruption and abuse of power in government. To be meaningful and effective, the
SALN requirement must be complied with truthfully, completely, and accurately.
It must be complied with in good faith. 11

Therefore there is a transcendental importance that the impeachment


complaint against Comelec Chair Andres Bautista should proceed and the Senate
should unravel the mysteries about the hidden wealth amassed by him in the
expense of the state. The state deserves to know the truth if whether or not the
allegations against the chair of his culpable offenses in the exercise of his duty are
factual or not. The Senate should proceed with the impeachment with due care
without however prejudicing the rights of Andres Bautista. If Bautista however
chooses to resign immediately rather than waiting for the end the year, the
complaint will be dismissed because it will become moot and academic.

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11CONSTITUTION Art. XI, Sec. 17