MANILA – Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista and wife Patricia Paz still cohabit the same space despite being estranged, which is how Patricia was able to find “a gift-wrapped block of cash” and documents that led her to conclude that he had ill-gotten wealth.
This is according to Patricia’s lawyer Bam Santos, in an interview with Bloomberg TV Philippines’ “The Big Story” anchor Roby Alampay on Monday.
According to him, the couple have two condominium units facing one another, separated by a corridor.
Patricia and the children live in one unit, while Bautista lives in the other.
But they still have shared utilities, such as a dining room, a living room, and a study, thus making each other’s spaces fully accessible to one another.
“Iwasan na lang talaga to avoid each other (They just take care to avoid each other),” Santos said.
The arrangement had been going on for about two years. She had earlier tried to live elsewhere, but eventually returned home to be with the children.
Bautista had previously indicated that they separated in 2013 because she allegedly cheated on him. Meanwhile, a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer said Patricia had filed a case of violence against women and children, accusing Bautista of “emotional and economic sabotage” against her and their children.
Santos clarified that the two remained legally married, and they were not in the process of annulment.
He said the “trigger” for Patricia was “finding a gift-wrapped block of cash inside their living room.” She had opened it because she thought it was a present.
“That started the whole process of her just going around and just being more aware because she’s been hearing things even before. She started looking around and the pieces unfolded as she heard them,” Santos said.
“The first documents that she found were just lying on the tabletops and the living room, on the study [and] she didn’t have to open anything to get access to them. And it was eventually that she was curious to see what more there were,” he added.
He acknowledged that Patricia had been conducting a search, and had gone through the things they had at home.
Asked for his client’s motive for going to President Rodrigo Duterte, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the public, through the media, Santos replied, “At first, her priority was her children, her family, that she wanted to keep them safe from … the whole mess, that’s gonna happen. If really there were ill-gotten wealth, she didn’t want them to benefit whatsoever from everything that was placed in the family treasures.”
He continued: “But eventually, she really decided that she wanted it out, for the public, for the sake of the nation, that she might not get anything out of this. The Comelec Chair might answer all allegations that’s being said out there. But she really wants it out so the public can know what’s happening, so that a full-blown investigation will happen. She’s doing it for the sake of the nation knowing that [Bautista is] holding a very important position in the government, that really determines and affects the democracy of the country.”
Santos also explained why Patricia went straight to Duterte in a meeting in Malacañang on July 26: “First of all, when she began to find these things, she was really afraid of the implications of all of these. And when she confronted the Comelec Chair about this, he always made it a point to tell her his clout over judges, prosecutors, senators, congressmen, the Ombudsman, that [Patricia] really felt there was no other person to go to but the President, who, in line with his wanting to stop graft and corruption, drugs, that he was the best person to go to, to reveal all of these things to.”
He added that she had considered going to the NBI instead, “But she didn’t know to what extent they would entertain her, if Comelec also has a clout on them. [So] it was best to go to the President himself so he could decide what’s the best plan to really stop what is happening.”
Asked about what happened during a subsequent meeting between Duterte and the couple on August 1, also in Malacañang, Santos replied, “The President spoke with them individually in separate rooms, and eventually called them to one room. And they had a private conversation. We, ourselves, weren’t part of [it]. And we really didn’t know what the conversation was but that’s what happened.”
He was not sure whether Duterte did try to get the couple to settle their “marital dispute,” Santos said.
Asked if the issue at hand had anything to do with the Bautistas’ marriage, Santos said that if that was the case, they could have filed for separation, annulment, or any other legal remedy with the courts.
“But this really shows that this is about the country first … than anything else,” he said.
Asked how far his client would be willing to go to possibly hold a public official into account, Santos replied, “She’s willing to go all out. That’s what happened when she really decided to go out to the public. There’s no stopping it anymore. It’s either she doesn’t cooperate at all or she goes 100 percent.”
It was now the government’s turn to act, Santos said. “We gave out all the pieces of evidence that we had, we made them see that we gathered. It’s up to them that we really make the next move, if they are gonna file something about this.”
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