The Manila Times - Bautista’s resignation will not end his predicament and the nation’s travail

15 August 2017

By Yen Makabenta | The Manila Times 

First word
I THINK this is the reason why Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista burst into tears when he finally talked about his alleged hidden wealth and his wife’s charges on television.

His resignation from his constitutional office, which many are calling for and now predict, will not extinguish his liability for the hidden wealth and his non-disclosure of assets in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Extinguishing criminal liability

The anguish is piercing when framed against a fairly recent tragedy in Philippine public life.

In February 2011, when former AFP chief of staff and defense secretary Angelo Reyes took his own life by his mother’s graveside, following his merciless roasting on live TV during a Senate hearing on military corruption, his shocking death provided a measure of release.

In the words of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago at the time: “Reyes died with the presumption of innocence on his side since he never went to trial. His death extinguishes all civil and criminal liability on his part. Whatever he knows, he takes with him to his grave.”

The Senate hearings on military corruption shut down. Many questions were left unanswered. The investigating committee forgot to submit a full committee report on its inquiry. Reyes’ suicide shocked them all into silence.

If Bautista finds the heart and the guts to resign, he will find that his ordeal is not similarly lifted by his resignation … or his tears.

The cases for hidden wealth and other charges will continue to hound him after he leaves office.

His country and his countrymen must still bear the pangs and consequences of an electoral system that was corrupted and compromised by fraud, bad leadership and mismanagement of the 2016 elections.

And then there will still be his wife Patricia to face, backed by lawyers, who are hungry to collect their fees.

Resignation kills impeachment
The only relief that I can see is the likelihood that the House of Representatives will lose interest in approving an impeachment complaint against Bautista.

Why would the nation’s representatives impeach a public official from an office that he has already left? Why would the taxpayers allow such a travesty? Even Oliver Lozano, the perennial filer of impeachment cases, will lose interest.

Strangely, however, Senate President Koko Pimentel, in one of his flights of illogic, declared on TV yesterday that the Senate’s being the impeachment court should not disqualify the chamber from conducting an investigation of Bautista and his hidden wealth.

If such an inquiry happens, even when there is no impeachment action against the chairman, the inquiry will be strictly for camera time. Or worse, the senators may be fantasizing that they will get another DAP bonanza for their efforts, just as President Aquino rewarded them for convicting Corona.

I doubt whether Pimentel, Gordon, Lacson, et al can keep a straight face with this joke. Even Antonio Trillanes will blush.

AMLC, BIR join the probe
One clear indication that the investigation of Bautista’s hidden wealth will continue, regardless of resignation, is the growing line of agencies that are joining the probe.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC)and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) have expressed their intent to join the investigation of Bautista. Each will use its power to get to the bottom of the mysterious wealth and multiple deposits, and then each will threaten to file its own charges.

Perhaps most grim is the entry of the BIR. The tax agency will investigate Bautista to determine the truth of the alleged P1 billion in undeclared assets, and whether he paid taxes on them.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2ndhas met with BIR Commissioner Cesar Dulay to discuss the scope of the investigation and to share with him the documents and findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). “We need to see if there are tax liabilities based on the affidavit and documents we have gathered,” Aguirre said.

The NBI, through its Anti-Fraud Division, has informed Aguirre that it has already started its investigation.

Based on the progress report submitted to Aguirre, the NBI has coordinated with various agencies, including the AMLC, to examine the more than 30 bank accounts exposed by Mrs. Patricia Bautista.

The NBI said it has asked AMLC to conduct a parallel money laundering investigation.

The NBI is also coordinating with the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which Bautista previously headed from 2010 to 2015.

The NBI has also been in touch with the Office of the Ombudsman for Bautista’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). They also coordinated with the Land Registration Authority (LRA), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) and various property developers.

Like the story of Job

The list of actions is depressing. I read online a summary of Bautista’s problems that crystallized for me the extent of what he is facing. You will find it in the blog site called “Thinking Pinoy.” This one is really sad.

Who is the person so integral and impervious that no amount of probing of his life will not bend him?

Bautista’s ordeal parallels the story of Job in the Bible and the many trials he underwent before he could go on to live 140 years.

I now hope that the offer of Bautista’s brother to take ownership of all his undeclared deposits and assets will strike a spark, because if it proves a dud, it could break the chairman.

In an interview with GMA News, Bautista’s brother, Dr. Martin Bautista, declared that his family is willing to waive their bank secrecy privileges to disprove the allegations made by Patricia.

“I want to prove to the world that my brother legally earned his money before he went into government service, in August of 2010,” the Oklahoma-based doctor said.

Doing the right thing
One of the most convincing definitions of integrity I have ever read is this one: “Integrity is doing the right thing.” Two ethics writers have defined it that way.

The biggest irony in Bautista’s otherwise successful life and career, is that all these headaches of his life would not have happened hadBautista had the integrity to do the right thing, first by his wife and children; second by the public offices he served; and third by the people whose elections he was appointed to manage.

Patricia’s lawyers tell us that there was a settlement agreement between Andy and Patricia that was ready for signature, but at the last minute it was cancelled, because Bautista and his lawyers made the absurd demand that she should say that she lied. As a consequence, the agreement was abandoned. And soon enough, the hidden wealth was exposed complete with documentation.

Had Bautista done the right thing by Patricia and their four children, there would have been no allegation of hidden wealth.

Had Bautista done the right thing by the two offices he served, the PCGG and the Comelec, there would be no fraudulent payments to answer for.

Had he ensured the integrity of the 2016 election, and said “No” to President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Smartmatic, he will not be standing at the center of perhaps the biggest scandal of all—the rigging of the 2016 elections.

When the election inquiry comes, and it will surely come, Bautista will be in it as both witness and respondent. Even his Liberal allies in the Senate will spurn him, because they now fear that they may lose their elective posts if the rigging of the vote is proved.