SCANDAL ROCKS PHL’S POLL COMMISSION CHIEF; P1-B ‘UNEXPLAINED WEALTH’ EXPOSED BY WIFE, IMPEACHMENT LOOMS

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BAUTISTA VS  BAUTISTA.  Embattled Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista and estranged wife Patricia Paz Bautista. They lived as a couple  for 17 years , bore  four children and now are throwing dirty linens at each other in public.

By ALFRED GABOT

MANILA (via PhilAmPress) – Chairman Juan Andres Bautista of the Commission on Elections is in trouble following the expose by his estranged wife that he has more than P1 billion in unexplained wealth, including a property in San Francisco, California, and alleged that he could have been involved in corrupt practices to have amassed the wealth.

Following the expose, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives called for separate public hearings to look into the wealth and properties of Chairman Bautista even as others called for his impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto filed a resolution calling for a Senate probe while Rep. Harry Roque, a lawyer, filed a similar resolution in the lower house. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, for his part, wanted an impeachment proceedings instead of congressional hearings.

Backed up by boxes of documents, including bank books, security papers and notes taken from the conjugal house, Patricia Paz Bautista went public with her allegations and even met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang and presumably briefed him on the matter. In the same Palace meeting, the President met separately with Chairman Bautista.

Malacanang officials later confirmed Mr. Duterte’s meetings with Chairman Bautista and Mrs. Bautista but said that the President only heared both parties and was not trying to influence them. It was learned later that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has been ordered to look into the bank books, financial papers and notes submitted by Mrs. Bautista.

Bautista, who was chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the agency running after the Marcos alleged loot, before he was named to head the Comelec, denied his wife’s allegations, saying he has not engaged in malpractices or corruption to earn what he now owns, adding that some of the documents presented by his wife were allegedly altered or fake.

Bautista also accused his wife of extorting P620 million from him and of alleged infidelity. He added he welcomes any investigation to be conducted in connection with the claims of his wife.

Mrs. Bautista countered she was asking for only P260 million from their conjugal assets not for herself but for the trust fund of their young children during their separation talks as she denied infidelity and accused her husband of flirtation with other women.

She said she and her husband had earlier settled their monetary issues, with assistance of lawyers, but accused her husband of “holding” the money by imposing conditions which were not acceptable to her, prompting her to seek Mr. Duterte’s intercession and go public.

Mrs. Bautista, who has been estranged from her husband since 2013, said the Comelec chairman agreed on the settlement but held it “for ransom as long as [she] signed a statement that said I did not find any of these things illegal or anything wrong,” referring to her statements that the elections chief allegedly had P1 billion in hidden wealth.

“I just want what’s legally mine after 17 years with 4 children,” she told Karen Davila on ANC’s Headstart program.

As detailed in her affidavit to the National Bureau of Investigation, the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Chairman Bautista that she just recently discovered include:

* 35 Luzon Development Bank (LDB) passbooks with a total balance P329,220,962.00;

* A foreign currency account with Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) with US$12,778.30, or around P640,959.53 (at P50.16 to the dollar as of August 4);

* An RCBC peso account with P257,931.60;

* An HSBC account with HK$948,358.97, or P6.1 million (at P6.43 per Hong Kong dollar);

* A condominium unit at One Bonifacio High Street at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig; and

* A condominium unit in The District in San Francisco, California.

 Meanwhile, Kontra Daya, an election watchdog urged Chairman Bautista to take a leave of absence following allegations of having unexplained wealth worth over P1 billion by his wife Patricia Paz.

“By taking a leave of absence, Bautista will not be able to use his position at the Comelec to influence the outcome of the probe, which we maintain should not just be limited to the issue of ill-gotten wealth,” said Kontra Daya’s Danilo Arao in a statement.

“Transcending the seemingly salacious and scandalous, it is imperative that any investigation of Bautista include issues surrounding the conduct of the 2016 elections under Bautista’s watch, as in the case of the leakage of personal information of voters,” Arao stated.

Arao stated they believe that the allegation “is worth investigating, especially in the performance of his job not just at the Comelec but also at the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).”

“Much as the media and the public are tempted to look at other details of his personal life, it is our hope that we don’t lose sight of the bigger issue of alleged corruption, conflict of interest and abuse of power while in office,” he added.

When asked if the poll body did not accede to the call, Arao said whatever the outcome of the probe will be questionable.

“The result of the probe would be put in question as Bautista will be vulnerable to accusations of interference. Of course, the Comelec as an institution would suffer in terms of morale and whatever remains of its credibility, no thanks to how Bautista has mismanaged the 2016 polls,” he added.

Interviewed on ANC by Karen Davila,  Patricia Bautista insisted she has no romantic ties with the alleged “third party,” former commercial model Alvin Lim, with whom she had partnered in a business.

“We’re friends. We’re very good friends. We work together so if you see pictures of us together, it’s normal,” she told ANC as documents on her husband’s alleged wealth and properties were spread on the table.

“We are very close. We’re both energy healers, people can interpret that the way they want,” she added.

The Philipine Star had reported that Bautistas were for many years good friends with Lim and his then partner, renowned restaurateur Margarita “Gaita” Fores.

Mrs. Bautista, who had long claimed to have a “third eye” that could see angels and read people’s aura, convinced Lim that he also had the gift. They later launched a business to help people with their psychic abilities, but their venture allegedly blossomed into romance, the report said.

In her ANC interview, Mrs. Bautista said her alleged affair was only a “rumor” started by Fores and “just a distraction” from the issue of Bautista’s supposedly concealed wealth.

She added that she can defend herself from accusations of infidelity but her husband of 17 years cannot say the same.

A lawmaker at the House of Representatives, meanwhile, filed a resolution asking Congress to conduct an inquiry into the allegations of ill-gotten wealth against Chairman Bautista supposedly worth P1 billion.

In House Resolution No. 1171, Kabayan Partylist Rep. Harry Roque, who is a lawyer, said an investigation is needed because the allegations made by Patricia Paz Bautista against her husband “raises serious questions, if not doubts, on the integrity of Philippine democracy, which Comelec is charged to protect and safeguard.”

He said Comelec is now rocked by scandal due to the public revelations of Mrs. Bautista that her husband has amassed unexplained wealth amounting to nearly P1 billion, including assets and properties here and abroad.

Roque said that Mrs. Bautista further alleged that she has documentary proof that Commissioner Bautista received payoffs from the Divina Law Offices.

The solon pointed out that the law firm allegedly served as counsel to Smartmatic, the Venezuelan elections technology provider that supplied the automated election machines used by Comelec since the May 2010 national elections.

He also pointed out that during the conduct of last year’s elections, Smartmatic was accused of tampering, through a Venezuelan technician, with the script of the Comelec’s transparency server without informing Comelec.

“The shocking revelations made by Bautista’s wife has raised serious questions about the integrity of the May 2016 elections. An investigation is in order,” Roque said.

In a press conference later, Chairman Bautista expressed the hope that their problems will be settled or addressed in a civil and decent manner.

“I am extremely disappointed over the recent actuation of my estranged wife, particularly making false accusations against me and allowing herself to be used to serve the political agenda of some opportunistic people,” he said.

“Her allegations are all lies, and I categorically deny all of them. It was my hope that we could still fix our marital problems, or at least addressed them in a civil and decent manner,” he added.

Bautista said he welcomes any investigation that will be conducted on the accusations hurdled against him.

“It is now clear she is motivated by greed and that she will not stop at nothing to besmirch my reputation and that of my family for the purpose of financial gains, even to the extent of allowing herself to be used by certain people and groups to promote a political agenda designed to cast aspersions on me and the Comelec’s work in the 2016 elections,” he added.

Chairman Bautista, at the same time, thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for taking time to talk with him and his estranged wife in Malacanang.

“President Duterte himself has graciously mediated our problem for which I am extremely grateful. But her recent statements and actions clearly manifest that she has no desire to save the marriage,” he said.

 “The President was very kind. He was like not only a mediator but also a marriage counselor. He recounted his own experiences with his family and that he was providing us good advice,” he said.

When asked if he offered to resign from his post, during the meeting, he said, “I didnt offer. I just said ako hindi ako kapit-tuko kung sa tingin nya kailangan ko magbitiw wala ako problema.”

The Comelec chie said he had declared P176 million  in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth.

“I think its P176 million that’s a public document so its something that you can verify,” he said.

The Comelec chief added, “It has been ten months since she stole cash, GCs (gift certificates), ATM cards and other financial documents belonging to myself and my family, many of which her lawyers embellished, doctored or fabricated. Throughout this time, she has repeatedly attempted to extort and blackmail me using her lawyers, and media contacts. And when she realized that no windfall was forthcoming, she decided to file her affidavit based on fabrications and lies.”

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