WATCH | As BIR forms team to probe Bautista couple, Speaker says Comelec chief can resign but he’s not off the hook

August 16, 2017 - 5:33 PM
File photos of Comelec chief Andres Bautista and estranged wife Patricia Paz Cruz-Bautista from Philstar

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said resignation is an option for Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista who has been publicly accused by his wife of corruption, but stressed that quitting his post would not exculpate him from possible charges.

“It is an option for him,” he said when asked in a television interview on Wednesday if Bautista should resign.

Alvarez added, “But it doesn’t mean na off the hook na siya kasi po maraming issues. Mayroong marital issues, hindi po natin pakikialaman ‘yon. Pero mayroong issues ng corruption, may issues ng sa Smartmatic, mayroong issues ng money laundering. Kailangan pong alamin iyan ng gobyerno.”

[But it doesn’t mean that he’s already off the hook because there are many issues. There are marital issues but we will not interfere with that. But there are issues of corruption, issues about Smartmatic, money laundering issues. The government should know these.]

Earlier, Bautista said that he had told President Rodrigo Duterte during meeting in Malacañang last August 1 that he would “not will not cling to this position.”

“(A)nd if he (Duterte) thinks I have to go, no problem with that. He said, ‘I am not asking you to resign. That is really your call,'” the poll chief added.

At least two resolutions have been filed at the House of Representatives to investigate Bautista over the revelations of his wife, Patricia Bautista, that the Comelec chair has ill-gotten wealth amounting to some P1 billion.

The Lower Chamber’s Committee on Justice is also prepared to entertain any verified impeachment complaint against Bautista, including one that may be filed by his wife, according to the House leader.

Kung gusto ng wife niya na mag-file ng impeachment complaint, puwede niyang i-file ‘yon sa House of Representatives and we have to process it,” Alvarez said.

[If his wife wants an impeachment complaint, she could file it at the House of Representatives and we have to process it.]

Alvarez said the poll chief should carefully examine his stint with the Comelec in the light of the allegations made by his wife.

“I think Chairman Bautista should consider that seriously. When you head that agency na handling elections sa bansa, kailangan po talagang credible iyan. Kapag may bahid na iyan, medyo hindi na po maganda,” he said.

[I think Chairman Bautista should consider that seriously. When you head that agency that handles the country’s elections, it should really be credible. It would no longer look good if it’s tarnished.]

BIR forms team to probe Bautista couple

Meanwhile, Bureau of Internal Revenue chief Cesar Dulay informed Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II through an August 16, 2017 letter that his agency had formed a special team to “investigate possible violations of the National Internal Revenue Code” by Bautista and his wife, the Comelec chief’s friend, lawyer Nilo T. Divina, Luzon Development Bank, and “other related parties.”

Dulay further told the DOJ chief that Glen A. Geraldino, director of the BIR’s Revenue Region No. 8 based in Makati City, would be the team’s coordinator.

“To help in the effective discharge of the Team’s investigative authority, kindly furnish it, through Director Geraldino, with any and all affidavits, reports and documents which your office may deem pertinent to the tax investigation,” Dulay told Aguirre.

Bautista’s transactions with Divina: Commission, referral fee, or payment for condo units?

In her affidavit submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation, Patricia claimed that her husband had secured the services of Divina, whom she described as “one of Andy’s best friends” and “godfather to my eldest son.”

She said that based on the documents she found from her husband’s belongings, Divina allegedly issued several checks in Andres’ name and that of his family members supposedly as the Comelec chief’s “commission for assisting” the clients of the law firm of Divina 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 Company Inc.) and UCPB (United Coconut Planters Bank), two government entities that Andy constantly dealt with while he was the PCGG chairman,” said Patricia.

She further claimed that “based on the breakdown sheets and checks, I found that Andy was getting commissions from Nilo, while he was/is in active government service.”

“Surely, a private practitioner such as Nilo would not give commission or some form of incentive to Andy if it wasn’t for any favor or service that he (Andy) had done for him (Nilo),” added Patricia.

The Comelec chief denied his wife’s claims.

“I do not get commissions. Sometimes there are what you would call referral fees, but these have nothing to do with my position in the Comelec,” the poll chief said last August 7.

“You could see that the Divina Law Firm has not represented any client here in Comelec…There were certain monies that he would give me, that’s true. But it’s not a lot. All of these are reflected in the SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth),” he added.

On August 8, the Comelec chief admitted that he had received money from Divina. But he said the money was not a commission but payment for the two condo units at the Shangri-La Place in Ortigas Center, Pasig City that Divina bought from him.

Divina, University of Sto. Tomas law dean, also dismissed Patricia’s allegations and said the law firm, which he founded, would file libel cases against the Comelec chief’s wife and all persons “who aided, abetted, assisted and conspired with her in weaving false stories against the firm.”

Last August 14, Divina Law also said that it would also file cybercrime charges against Patricia.

The poll chief had already sued his wife and her legal adviser, lawyer Lorna Kapunan, whom he accused of violating the Cybercrime Prevention Act after they allegedly seized his iPad and accessed his emails.

He also charged Patricia with qualified theft, grave coercion, robbery and extortion.