Inquirer.net – Integrity of ’16 polls in question as probe into Bautista’s ‘unexplained wealth’ sought
By Vince F. Nonato | Inquirer.net
Saying it casts doubt on the integrity of the 2016 elections, Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque Jr. has sought an investigation into the allegations hurled against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista by his own wife.
Roque cited the accusations of Patricia Paz Bautista and zeroed in on the Comelec chief’s alleged receipt of commissions from Divina Law Offices, the legal counsel of Venezuelan election technology supplier Smartmatic.
In House Resolution No. 1171, Roque said the controversy “raises serious questions about the integrity of the May 2016 National Elections, wracked as it has been with allegations that the same elections have been rigged to favor certain candidates for national posts.”
While he did not name anyone, it may be noted that Vice-President Leni Robredo and Senator Leila de Lima of the Liberal Party are both facing protests by defeated candidates Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Francis Tolentino before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal and the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
Allegations raised by Roque in the resolution include the supposed tampering of the script of the Comelec’s transparency server by a Venezuelan technician without the agency being informed.
Election organizers have explained the tweak to the programming script was a mere “cosmetic change” which corrects the appearance of the letter “ñ” in candidates’ names as question marks (“?”).
Roque also raised the accusation that Smartmatic ran a secret operations room filed with vote-counting machines at the Novotel Business Hotel in the Araneta Center, which is owned by the family of losing presidential candidate, Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II.
Asked if this investigation might lead to Bautista’s impeachment, Roque said in a text message: “We will see. Need to uncover evidence first.”
1-Ang Edukasyon Rep. Salvador Belaro, however, threw his support behind Bautista and said the client-lawyer and martial confidentiality rules might have been violated.
In airing her allegations, wife Patricia Paz Bautista had cited several passbooks as well as bank and real property documents under her husband’s name and some of his relatives that were not included in his 2016 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
The lawmaker said: “Those documents presented by wife might be entrusted to Chairman Bautista during his time as private practitioner. The documents referred to may belong to former law clients of Chairman Bautista.”
He added that “the wife may not be able to testify against her husband based on the marital confidentiality rule.”
Belaro, a former Integrated Bar of the Philippines Commissioner of Bar Discipline, said he knew Bautista personally since he was the president of the Philippine Association of Law Schools when they were both law school deans.
“I throw my moral support behind him and I hope he and his wife can settle this amicably and perhaps, even rekindle love if there is still some left in their hearts,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. of the opposition Magnificent Seven bloc cautioned his colleagues in the House “not to be hasty in entertaining impeachment proceedings or congressional inquiries.”
“Likewise, I caution against allegations that might link this controversy to political issues like last year’s elections and current protest,” said Baguilat, a member of Vice-President Leni Robredo’s Liberal Party.
He said he would need to see more facts before making a judgment as to the allegations of unexplained wealth.
“Any public official with unexplained wealth should be investigated and face possible prosecution. But being super rich doesn’t automatically make you liable for corruption charges,” he said.
“Right now, it appears to be a marital spat. So more facts needed,” he added.