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Wife exposes Comelec chair's 'unexplained' wealth


Patricia Paz Bautista, wife of Commission on Elections chairperson Andres Bautista, said her husband allegedly has unexplained wealth.

According to a report on Unang Balita on Monday, citing an article from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mrs. Bautista submitted an affidavit to the NBI on August 1 saying her husband allegedly has almost P1 billion ill-gotten wealth.

Justice Vitaliano Aguirre II said he has already directed the NBI to look into the claim of Mrs. Bautista.

Five days before she submitted her affidavit, Mrs. Bautista met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang.

She told the President about the bank passbooks and other documents she has discovered detailing bank accounts and real estate properties in the name of her husband and some relatives.

Based on Mrs. Bautista's affidavit, a copy of which was provided by her lawyers to the media, the Comelec chief and some of his family members supposedly have 35 Luzon Development Bank (LDB) passbooks with a total balance of P329,220,962.

Of this amount, Bautista allegedly maintains five accounts with LDB Makati City amounting to P101,519,909.

Bautista allegedly has a foreign currency account with Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) worth $12,778.30 and an RCBC peso account with P257,931.60.

Mrs. Bautista also claimed to have discovered an account of her husband with Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited worth HK$948,358.97

She said her husband also owns a condominium unit in One Bonifacio High Street at Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig City and a condominium unit in The District in San Francisco, California.

Mrs. Bautista said these were not included in the Comelec chairperson's Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) for 2016.

She added that her husband may be impeached should it be proven that the assets were ill-gotten while he is serving the government.

Mrs. Bautista also disclosed the Comelec chief's investments abroad "in the form of his interests in corporations and loan agreements."

- Bauman Enterprises Limited, a company established in the British Virgin Islands on September 29, 2010. It is a trustee company that Bautista allegedly set up with Bank of Singapore.

- Mantova International Limited, a company established in Brunei Darussalam on April 26, 2011.

- Mega Achieve Inc., a company established in Anguilla, a British territory in the Caribbean, on July 15, 2014.

“I previously confronted Andy about these companies and he bluntly denied that he was involved in any way with any of them. However, it is highly suspicious why he would have copies of pertinent documents relative to such companies when he claims that he does not have any involvement with any of those,” the affidavit read.

"Again, these were not declared in his SALN."

Apart from undeclared assets, Mrs. Bautista also claimed to have found "several checks and commission sheets" issued in Bautista's name and that of his family members from University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law dean Nilo Divina, who owns a law firm in Makati.

Mrs. Bautista said Divina is one of the best friends of her husband and godfather to the couple's eldest son Xavier.

"Based on the documents I found, Nilo issued several checks in Andy's name and that of his family members, as Andy's commission for the law firm's clients with the Comelec. What made me highly suspicious is that Nilo's law firm has been handling, among others, government clients such as BASECO (Bataan Shipyard and Engineering Co. Inc.) and UCPB (United Coconut Planters Bank), two government entities that Andy constantly dealt with while he was the PCGG (Presidential Commission on Good Government) chairman," the affidavit stated.

Bautista used to head the PCGG, the agency tasked to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies, before he was appointed Comelec chairman by then-President Benigno Aquino III in 2015.

"I created an impression, based on the breakdown sheets and checks I found that Andy was getting commissions, while he was/is in active government service," Mrs. Bautista said.

She said she was "completely shocked and surprised" with her discoveries about Bautista's alleged ill-gotten wealth.

"He has always been frugal in his spending, to say the least, so to find all this is absolutely shocking," Mrs. Bautista said.

"I understand that Andy, being a high ranking public official, should be accountable and transparent to the public about all these finances, properties and money which, obviously, he was not."

Marital problem

The Comelec chair, in an interview on Unang Balita on Monday, dismissed his wife's claims and suspected their marital problem was the reason for her complaints.

"Matagal na po kaming may problemang mag-asawa na ngayon ay binabahiran ng pulitika," he said. "Kaya nga po kami may problema, nung 2013 pa, meron na po siya sigurong ibang minamahal."

He added that these claims may be motivated by money.

"I tried to save the marriage dahil bata pa po 'yung aming mga anak. At kami po ay nag-counseling at lahat pero talagang desidido na yata talaga siyang humiwalay," Bautista said.

"Nakikita niyo po, pera lang ito dahil pataas nang pataas po 'yung kanyang hinihingi na pera at lahat po 'yan ay nakadokumento at meron po tayong testigong ihaharap," he continued. "Ito po ay isang kaso ng pangingikil at panggigipit."

Bautista said his wife obtained these documents around November 2016 after she withdrew $117,000 from their joint bank account and employed armed men to have him barred from entering their home.

"Nung ako po ay nasa Amerika, bigla pong nag-withdraw ang aking misis ng $117,000 at P250,000 sa aming joint account at inilipat sa kanyang account," he recalled.

"Ako po ay pinagbawalang umuwi sa aking sariling pamamahay. In fact, naglagay po sila ng mga goons, armed goons po dun sa aming condo unit para hindi po ako makapasok," Bautista continued.

He was eventually allowed to enter his own home but found his cabinets plundered of sensitive documents which were supposedly tampered with and used as a basis for his alleged unexplained wealth.

"After two hours, nung ako po ay nakapasok, nakita ko po na ang akin pong locked cabinets ay binuksan at may mga dokumento na pag-aari ko po at pag-aari ng aking pamilya na ninakaw at later on dinoktor tapos dun gumawa ng mga imbento," Bautista said.

"Sa susunod na araw po, meron kaming common friend na sinabi, 'O ang pag-aari mo daw ay P2 billion.' Kaya't ang hinihingi po nila ay P1 billion plus 'yung dalawang unit sa Pacific [Plaza Towers]. Sabi ko po sa kanila kung ako po ay merong P2 billion ay sa kanila na dahil hindi po 'yan totoo," he added.

Bautista has since met with Duterte and the Inquirer to provide counter-documents and his own account of the events.

Their family, including her side, also supposedly remains supportive of his actions while Duterte gave the couple advice in their private meeting.

"Kasama ko po ang buong pamilyang Bautista at ng kanyang pamilya, ang Cruz-Vazquez, sa labang ito at ipapakita po namin na ito po ay isang kaso ng pangingikil at panggigipit," Bautista said.

'Out of fear'

Mrs. Bautista, in reports, said that while her husband is "extremely professionally qualified," she believes he should not hold any government position in light of what she has discovered.

She said that Bautista was aware that she had in her possession the documents she mentioned in her affidavit.

“As his reprisal, Andy has purposely cut off any financial support that he has previously given to me and my family, in the hopes that this act would pressure me to give up the documents and information I have against him,” she said.

She also acknowledged that she had wanted to separate from her husband since 2013 and had even filed charges of "emotional and economic sabotage" with the Taguig City Prosecutor's Office.

"In all honesty, I did not know what they [bank accounts and other assets] were," Mrs. Bautista said in a press conference, a video of which was uploaded by the Inquirer on Sunday.

"I got to a point where I realized that these things could be items of question; these could be things that could get my children [into] trouble, me into trouble."

She said she did not want people to think that she was "complicit" to her husband's possible illegal activities while in public office.

"At some point in your life, you really have to walk the talk and this for me is one of it...at least I can stand tall and straight and say, 'You know what, I don't know any of these stuff.' I don't know what's going to happen but at least me and my kids you know we didn't do any of these stuff," Mrs. Bautista said.

Mrs. Bautista also explained why she sought an audience with Duterte.

"I'm getting scared because I've hit a wall and I'm holding these stuff. I don't know what it is. I don’t know how far-reaching it is. I don’t know what to do, right?” she said.

“So I would think that the safest place to bring this is there [referring to Malacañang], because at the end of the day, this is the President. This is as high as it goes,” she added.

Mrs. Bautista was accompanied by her lawyers during her meeting with the President on July 26.

NBI

For his part, NBI spokesperson Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin said he has yet to receive feedback on the agency's action on Mrs. Bautista's allegations.

NBI Director Dante Gierran, who was reportedly summoned by Duterte to the Palace after the President heard Mrs. Bautista's story, declined to comment.

SALN

The Comelec chair had a net worth of P176.3 million as of December 31, 2016 based on his SALN, making him the richest among the heads of the five constitutional commissions in the government.

His 2016 SALN also showed that he has total assets of P241.8 million, composed of P158.5 million worth of real properties and P83.3 million worth of personal properties.

His liabilities, meanwhile, amounted to P65.5 million. —Rie Takumi and Virgil Lopez/KG/RSJ/KBK, GMA News

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