By Elizabeth Angsioco | Manila Standard Today
“You have to do it right” is a line heard from Patricia Bautista, the estranged wife of Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista during a recent interview about her discoveries about her husband’s alleged questionable financial dealings.
Perhaps this is a line that everyone should remember when considering the possibly huge political implications of Patricia’s revelations. What started out to be a marital problem has turned into a potential national issue because of the very sensitive position occupied by Chairman Bautista.
I watched the interviews of both parties, and read as many news reports on the issue as I could possibly put my hands on in an attempt to better understand this complex situation. Definitely, this is not a simple marital spat as how others regard it.
Right off, I will state that as a women’s rights advocate, I am no stranger to relationships that turn sour, and problematic, even broken marriages. Patricia showed much courage when she allowed herself to be interviewed on national television knowing fully well that her personal life will be scrutinized by the public. Not a few have vilified her.
In my eyes, she is credible. Her demeanor and her words during the interview showed are those of a woman trapped in a marriage that is already beyond repair. Her experience is similar to women married to powerful men who are unable to get out of already ruined marriages out of fear of what their husbands would do. They know that if these men so wish, they can make them suffer more.
However, the political ramifications of the Bautistas’ case can possibly be huge.
As an example, Patricia said she found lying around in their house envelopes containing money that appear to be salaries of employees of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). The envelopes even have pay slips on them dated 2014 when her husband was the PCGG head. She showed several of these pay envelopes.
When asked about this on TV, the Comelec chairman’s explanation was at best, unclear. He gave as an example a friend of his that he tapped to refurbish the Comelec office. However, if the envelopes are authentic, these were supposed to have been released as salaries in 2014, when Andres Bautista was PCGG chairman, before he headed the elections body.
Patricia said that she discovered several pieces of real property owned by her husband that she, the wife, has no knowledge of. She questioned how the Comelec chairman had acquired these if they were acquired while he is in public office.
Patricia also alleged that she had in her possession 32 Luzon Development Bank passbooks and a few more accounts in other banks, under the name of her husband. She even said that she was able to trace regular movement of money using at least some of these accounts.
Of course, the Comelec chair and his family are not exactly poor. On the contrary, both Patricia and Chairman Bautista repeatedly said that the latter had been earning very well for many years before entering public service. There is no question about the fact that Chairman Bautista has money.
What made Patricia wonder, according to her, is the fact that the movement of money she spoke of happened during Chairman Bautista’s incumbency as a government official. This is questionable because she said that there was no way that her husband could earn that much as a public servant.
Patricia alleged that her husband received money from Smartmatic, the company that supplied the machines used during our elections. The money, she said, was received through Divina Law owned by Chairman Bautista’s close friend. She showed documents that she said point to this.
Andres Bautista as the Comelec chairman is in-charge of seeing to it that our elections, the heart of our democracy, are clean, honest, and credible. His responsibilities are huge. The integrity of our elections cannot be risked because of suspicions that graft and corruption exist in the electoral body. The country is already beset with many major problems.
Patricia’s allegations against her husband put into question the credibility of the results of the 2016 elections in its entirety. How can the Filipino people believe that the elections were clean and that the results were credible if there are serious questions on the integrity of the very person responsible in ensuring that elections are clean?
As it is, electoral protests are ongoing. The result of the vice-presidential race is being contested and it is very likely that there are similar cases for other national and local positions.
Should the Filipino people continue to entrust our elections on someone whose credibility is seriously questioned?
We cannot afford this. The country cannot afford another crisis. Patricia said that she holds boxes of documents that ought to be scrutinized to ascertain whether the Comelec chairman was involved in illegal acts. Those in charge of investigating this case must act thoroughly and with dispatch. The public deserves to know the truth.
Chairman Bautista said that this is a demolition job against him and the Comelec. He expressed his readiness to resign if President Duterte wants him to. First, the investigation must be done. I am all for due process. Chairman Bautista must be afforded the opportunity to clear his name. And while the investigation is ongoing, it will be good if he would first voluntarily go on leave as Comelec chairman so there is no doubt that he is using his position to influence the investigation.
He said that charges have already been filed against Patricia and vice-versa. Let the courts do their work BUT for the sake of the country, you have to do it right.