Impeachment rap filed vs Comelec chief | Inquirer News

Impeachment rap filed vs Comelec chief

07:58 AM August 24, 2017

Comelec Chair Andres Bautista turns emotional speaking before the poll body’s employees Monday, August 14, 2017, as he touches on the controversy hounding him. PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER / JULIE AURELIO

An impeachment complaint was filed on Wednesday against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Andres Bautista, largely on the strength of his estranged wife’s allegations that he accumulated nearly P1 billion in undeclared wealth.

Sought for comment, Bautista said: “I spent the day meeting with the guidance counselors of my sons. At this point, the welfare of my four sons takes precedence over all other concerns. Let me reserve my comments till I read the complaint.”

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In a 23-page complaint, former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio accused Bautista of failing to disclose bank accounts, investments and properties in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Last year the Comelec chief declared only a net worth of P176.3 million, but his wife Patricia Cruz-Bautista earlier this month produced bank records, passbooks and real property documents that appeared to belie what he stated in the document.

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“This is beyond domestic quarrel,” Paras told reporters.

Mind-boggling

“It was fortunate that it was because of that (marital troubles) that we were able to find out that his accumulation of wealth is so mind-boggling up to the point when he became Comelec chair,” he said of Bautista.

Bautista denied the allegations of his estranged wife, accusing her of trying to extort from him.

The beleaguered Comelec chief was also accused of betraying the public trust by receiving referral fees from electronic voting company Smartmatic through DivinaLaw office, and failing to prevent the so-called “Comeleak” data breach that compromised the private information of millions of registered voters in March last year.

The complaint was endorsed by Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia, Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque and Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino.

Roque said he was given an assurance by Patricia’s lawyers that she would appear at the House to attest to her affidavit that was attached to the impeachment complaint.

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“I wouldn’t have endorsed it without the assurance of Mrs. Bautista that on the hearing, she will appear and attest to the truthfulness of her affidavit and bring all the documents she mentioned,” he said.

Paras and Topacio said Bautista’s misdeclaration of his real wealth constituted a betrayal of public trust.

“It is crystal clear that Bautista illegally acquired these assets as they are disproportionate to his salary as a public official; besides, his nonreporting of the same in his SALN further lends credence to the allegations that they are ill-gotten,” the complaint read in part.

Paras said Bautista’s own admission that he received referral fees from DivinaLaw, which represented Smartmatic, the Comelec’s technology provider, “was tantamount to indirect bribery.”

 Very, very fatal

“What was very, very fatal here is he took money from Smartmatic through the DivinaLaw Office,” he said.

Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said she had repeatedly urged Bautista to take a leave of absence for his sake and the Comelec’s.

“Yes, I have told him since day one when this problem became public that my advice is for him to take a leave before he decides to resign or whatever so that we could have a smooth functioning in the Comelec,” she told reporters at the House.

Earlier in the day, the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies approved a motion to invite Bautista to its next hearing to shed light on the bank accounts he kept as a government official.

The National Bureau of Investigation told the committee that sequestered companies under the Presidential Commission on Good Government, chaired then by Bautista, had accounts with Luzon Development Bank, but these were closed last year. With reports from Tina Santos and Christine Avendaño

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TAGS: Andres Bautista, Comelec, Ferdinand Topacio, Ill-gotten wealth, Jacinto Paras, Patricia Paz Bautista
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