The resignation of Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. of the Commission of Elections (Comelec) renders his impeachment case moot and academic, but the Senate will continue wits investigation into the controversial broadband deal.
House Majority Leader Rep. Arthur Defensor of Iloilo said, “The purpose of an impeachment is to remove the respondent or a public official from office. I don’t think Speaker Jose de Venecia will still refer the impeachment complaint to the House Committee on Justice.”
Defensor, together with two other administration allies, representatives Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao and Monico Puentevella of Bacolod, welcomed Abalos’ resignation. They praised the chairman for his “moral courage” to prove his innocence.
The congressmen who endorsed the impeachment case, Reps. Teofisto Guingona 3rd of Bukidnon, and Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna Party-List, were not surprised with Abalos’ announcement.
In separate interviews, Guingona and Casiño said the resignation is an act of saving face amid the raging controversy. Abalos was accused of brokering and offering bribes to a Cabinet member and the son of the House Speaker in connection with the project.
Abalos denied those allegations, and that he was merely friends with executives of ZTE Corp., which bagged the project. Abalos said he will file cases against accusers.
Casiño said the Ombudsman should run after Abalos and charge him for allegedly “brokering” for the Chinese firm.
Guingona added he is not convinced the Palace had nothing to do with the decision of Abalos.
Villar: Probe to proceed
Senate President Manuel Villar praised Abalos’ decision to resign, but added that the Senate investigation will continue.
Referring to Abalos’ announcement, Villar said, “This reflects a sense of delicadeza and sensitivity to public opinion on the part of Chairman Abalos.”
But he said the inquiry must continue because the ZTE deal is a transaction that is separate from the person of Abalos. “With or without his resignation, it must be concluded.”
United Opposition President Jejomar Binay welcomed the resignation of Abalos but insists that the “search for the truth behind the controversial National Broadband Network (NBN) scandal should be pursued and not end with his resignation.”
Business sector reacts
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Donald Dee said in a telephone interview that the business community has lauded the decision of Abalos.
Dee said that they expect that charges will be filed formally, “Then it is where the proper forum is.”