Philippine legislators yesterday impeached the head of the country’s elections commission on allegations he had amassed nearly $20mn in unexplained wealth.
The House of Representatives voted 137-75 in a plenary session to reject the recommendation of its justice committee to junk the impeachment complaint against Juan Andres Bautista, chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec). The vote was made hours after Bautista announced he was stepping down from his post by December 31.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said he voted against the justice committee recommendation because “the charges against the Comelec chair were very serious.”
The House plenary directed the justice committee to prepare the articles of impeachment against Bautista, which will be transmitted to the 24-member Senate for the trial. Earlier in the day, Bautista told Comelec employees he submitted his resignation letter to President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday.
“This was not an easy decision,” he told employees of the commission. “But my family, especially my children, need me now more than ever.”
“It is with deep sadness that I am informing you about my decision to resign as the chairman of the Comelec by the end of the year,” he added. “After much prayer and discernment, I believe that it is the right time to step down.”
Bautista was appointed by former president Benigno Aquino as chairman of the Comelec in May 2015, one year before the 2016 presidential elections that Duterte won.
The impeachment complaint against Bautista was based on allegations by his estranged wife that he had secret bank accounts and other assets worth nearly 1bn pesos ($20mn). Bautista’s wife alleged she discovered documents referring to bank accounts and properties that were under Bautista’s name but not included in his assets statement submitted to government.
Bautista has denied the allegations and said the documents shown by his wife were altered as part of a plan for her to extort money from him.
A vote of two-thirds of the Senate is needed to convict Bautista.
A convicted official is removed from office and disqualified from holding any other position in government.
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