MANILA, Philippines — The passage of major legislative measures such as the 2018 budget and the tax reform program may be delayed once the Senate convenes as an impeachment court to try Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon warned on Thursday.
Drilon, who has sat on two impeachment courts, said “deliberations on the proposed 2018 national budget and the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act) will have to take a backseat once the Senate begins the impeachment trial against Chairman Andy Bautista.”
He said Section 3 (6) of Article XI of the Constitution gives the Senate the sole power to try and decide on all impeachment cases.
Drilon, a former Justice secretary and former Senate president, said that once the House transmits the articles of impeachment to the Senate, it must immediately constitute itself as an impeachment court to hear the charges against the poll chief.
This could lead to “unavoidable” delays in the discussions on important pieces of legislation, he said.
“Our calendar is too tight and the impeachment case will eat up a lot of our time when we resume session in November. Legislative work will be seriously affected and that is a matter that the leadership should highly consider,” said Drilon.
The Senate and the House are on a break until November 13, with two important measures pending approval.
The proposed 2018 budget is currently in the period of interpellation while the tax reform law, critical in funding the bold infrastructure program of the government, is undergoing its period of amendments, he said.
Sen. Loren Legarda, the chairperson of the Senate Finance committee, said that the debates on the budget would continue upon the resumption of the sessions of Congress. They would aim to have the bill signed into law by early December, according to Legarda.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives overturned the decision of its Justice Committee to junk the impeachment charge filed by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio and former Rep. Jacinto “Jing” Paras against Bautista for alleged betrayal of public trust and for failing to fully disclose the extent of his wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
Bautista’s impeachment came just hours after he announced his resignation from the COMELEC which he said would take effect at the end of this year.
The poll chief said that although impeachment was unnecessary he would abide by the rules and the Constitution.