COMELEC Chairman Bautista’s alleged “unexplained wealth” key to exposing 2016 electoral fraud

Under the spotlight:
Allegations of corruption against COMELEC chair Andy Bautista drags him and his agency across the mud and throws doubt upon the 2016 elections.
(Photo source: ABS-CBN News)
A key to uncovering the alleged election fraud during the Philippine 2016 Presidential Elections is now in the hands of the National Bureau of Investigations (NBI). Patricia Bautista, the estranged wife of the Chairman of the Commission on Elections Andres Bautista, has submitted an affidavit disclosing evidence against the COMELEC chief that he has a total estimated value of almost P1 billion in money in banks, properties, interest and shares in companies established overseas that he did not declare in his 2016 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). The following assets are allegedly not included in his SALN:

• 35 Luzon Development Bank (LDB) passbooks with a total balance of P329,220,962

• A foreign currency account with Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) with $12,778.30, or P640,959.53 (at P50.16 [as of Aug. 4] to $1.00)

• An RCBC peso account with P257,931.60

• A Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) account with HK$948,358.97 or P6.10 million (at P6.43 to HK$1.00)

• A condominium unit in One Bonifacio High Street at Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig City

• A condo unit in The District in San Francisco, California

• Bauman Enterprises Ltd., a company established in the British Virgin Islands on Sept. 29, 2010; a trustee company that Bautista set up with Bank of Singapore

• Mantova International Ltd., established in Brunei Darussalam on April 26, 2011

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

Those are damning pieces of evidence, indeed. Mrs. Bautista claims that her purpose in coming out with the information is to protect herself and her children. She said that she didn’t want to be accused of being complicit in any crime that her husband could be involved in. She added that she is scared and had to approach President Rodrigo Duterte himself for help. Apparently, just after the State of the Nation Address a week ago, Mrs. Bautista met with the President and Duterte referred the matter to the NBI. It’s a good thing Duterte is not part of the Liberal Party. Otherwise, her revelation would have been swept under the rug. In the televised interview, Mrs. Bautista seemed genuinely concerned that her estranged husband, had huge funds in several accounts she was previously not aware of.

I expect those who were outraged and called for the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment over his failure to include assets less than what Bautista is hiding to show the same level of outrage over this explosive revelation. Everyone, including the Liberal Party supporters should be up in arms over this information.

In his rebuttal, Bautista is claiming that he is the victim in this sorry saga. He is crying extortion – saying that his wife asked for 600-million-peso settlement, which he insist he doesn’t have.  He also added that his wife stole and falsified documents to use against him because she is motivated by greed. Bautista’s claim against his wife doesn’t explain the “unexplained wealth” though. His wife doesn’t look dumb enough to use falsified documents thinking she could get away with it. That’s also an insult to the members of the law enforcement agencies who will check the validity of the documents.

Bautista also said that not all of the money in the bank belongs to him. He said “these monies don’t all belong to me. Most of them belong to my parents, to my brother & sister…” which raises the question even more: Why are they with him? His parents, brothers and sisters are old enough to open their own accounts, so why do they have to ask him to hold their money for keepsake? Besides, Corona, during his impeachment, already used a similar line when he said assets were co-mingled with his daughter and family members. This did not fly with senator-judges who found him guilty of undeclared assets in his SALN. Bautista should suffer the same fate just to be fair.

Patricia Bautista:
Seems genuinely concerned about her husband’s unexplained wealth.
(Photo source: Inquirer)
At this point, it’s still a matter of “he said, she said” allegations thrown against each other by the husband and wife. Nothing is conclusive until the evidence goes under strict scrutiny in court. But unfortunately, some Liberal Party supporters are already leaning their support towards the husband who is a staunch Liberal Party ally. Some are already painting the wife as “greedy” and “opportunistic”. As usual, they are showing their bias. If it were a member of the Opposition exposed with corruption allegations, the LP would pounce upon the opportunity, but they are cautious with Bautista. They are careful not to associate the corruption allegation against him with the 2016 Presidential Elections lest it sheds light on electoral fraud allegations against their preferred Vice President Leni Robredo.

Just in case some people were not yet aware, the Comelec Chairman Bautista once served as the campaign adviser of losing Presidential candidate Mar Roxas when the former DILG Secretary ran for senator. The Novotel Hotel in Quezon City, which is owned by the Roxas family was also where the Smartmatic executives stayed at during the 2016 Elections.  Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) also reported that voting machines were found at the hotel – a claim COMELEC denied.

Since we all know Filipino government officials like Bautista don’t have the decency to resign when embroiled in controversy, he should at least take a leave of absence while he is under investigation. If Bautista doesn’t get prosecuted or at least investigated, this will prove that patronage politics is doing well in the Philippines.

I suspect that the Liberal Party bigwigs are getting nervous. Bautista has become a liability to them. He’s probably being told to fix his domestic problems because it is dragging everyone down. But it is too late to fix it now that the cat is out of the bag. While the Liberal Party has been known to throw its own members under the bus when the pressure gets too heavy, the party could collapse under the weight of this latest controversy. We should expect the Liberal Party to do whatever it takes to help Bautista get through this “ordeal”. We can only hope the Department of Justice would do its job to make sure he doesn’t.

 

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