Manila Standard Today - Behind closed doors

10 August 2017

By Danilo Suarez | Manila Standard Today 

Monday’s headlines were dominated by the controversy between Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista and his wife, Patricia Paz. The couple admitted to marital woes that led to their estrangement.

Mrs. Bautista met with President Duterte in fear that her family’s assets were acquired through illegal or immoral acts. She revealed several bank accounts and real estate properties worth almost P1 billion under the name of her husband, which were not declared in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth). Chairman Bautista only declared a net worth of P176.3 million in his SALN. The evidence was acquired by Mrs. Bautista from their conjugal house. However, the chairman insisted that everything he owns is stated in his SALN and some of the evidence presented by his wife were allegedly fabricated.

We must recognize two separate issues here: The marital problems of the Bautistas, which is personal; and the undeclared and unexplained wealth of Commissioner Bautista, which is an issue of public concern that requires further investigation. This is a question of integrity and accountability of a public servant.

Prior to Mrs. Bautista’s revelations, there have been reports of allegedly clandestine and suspicious meetings and sightings of the Commissioner in relation to the 2016 elections, like his supposed secret meeting with then VP candidate Leni Robredo. We cannot help but connect these events to Chairman Bautista’s supposed unexplained wealth. I filed a resolution for the appropriate House committee to conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, on Comelec Chairman Bautista’s unexplained wealth and its possible relation to the 2016 national and local elections. The investigation would give the Chairman an opportunity to clear his name, address the allegations of unexplained wealth, if any, and its relation to the 2016 elections. With all the election protests, 28 in the House of Representatives, one in the Senate, 14 for local positions, and one for the second position in the country, the issue of whether or not the 2016 elections is a true reflection of the people’s choice remains a dark cloud that is cast on the integrity of the electoral process and the Commission in charge of its proper conduct.

Chairman Bautista is an impeachable officer. Should it be proven that he violated the Constitution, he will be dismissed from government service. The minority will not take this case lightly, similar to how we deal with previous cases of government officials who were linked to corruption and other immoral practices.