Manila Standard Today – The case of the Comelec chief

By Alejandro Del Rosario | Manila Standard Today 

The case filed by the wife of Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista should not be dismissed as nothing more than a domestic dispute. It raises questions on when and how Bautista amassed P1 billion in his brief stint as Comelec chief. If the source of Bautista’s wealth is spurious, then we have a more serious case on the integrity of elections held under his watch including the national and local elections of 2016.

In documents she obtained from their conjugal home, Mrs. Bautista revealed her husband had several bank accounts here and abroad, a condominium unit in Bonifacio Global City and another condo in San Francisco, USA. Owning real estate property abroad is not against the law. For sure, many of our public officials and legislators have a place stashed away somewhere outside the Philippines. But these assets, bank accounts and real estate property must be declared in their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) as required of public officials.

Not declaring his true SALN was what got the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona. After his impeachment, the state filed tax evasion case against Corona and he died a broken man.

Bautista, in a press conference he called to air his side, claimed his estranged wife who has taken on a lover wants to extort P369 million from him in exchange for her not going public with her allegations. He also claimed that some of the money and real estate property in documents taken by Patricia really belong to other members of his family.

But things Bautisa said in a press conference is not binding as when he testifies under oath in a Senate or Housing hearing to be called. Under oath in a congressional investigation, he is liable for perjury if he is proven lying.

With some of the sordid details of this bitter marital breakup already out in the open, those with a vicarious streak can’t wait to hear more of the salacious, seamy side of other people’s lives. An attractive woman with three children, the curious crowd salivating for a scandal would no doubt like to see who Mrs. Bautista’s lover is. This is like a de ja vu of Senator Leila de Lima’s dalliance with her driver bodyguard Ronnie Dayan.

Whether Bautista will go the way of Corona or his wife Patricia suffer the same fate as De Lima remains to be seen in the ensuing events of a public hearing.

Bautista said he is willing to resign from his post if the President tells him to. A resignation, however, does not expunge criminal liability. With the cloak of immunity from prosecution which Bautista enjoys as Comelec chief, criminal cases can then be filed against him if he steps down depending on the documents Mrs. Bautista submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation and to President Duterte.

President Duterte said he’s not going to take a direct hand in Bautista’s case since the documents have already been filed with the NBI which will determine whether there is basis for criminal prosecution. Recall that Bautista’s predecessor Sixto Brillantes Jr. was also awash with rumors of alleged payoff from Smartmatic, the provider of the vote counting machines used in two past elections. But nothing came of it because no one filed a case against Brillantes after he retired.

I for one, would like to see the case against Bautista prosper because it would unravel the truth as to whether the integrity of our electoral process has been compromised by those in charge of overseeing it.

If Bautista comes through unscathed in a Senate or House hearing, well and good. It would at least assure the citizenry that our elections process is in good hands. If not, by all means prosecute and punish these erring officials.

There has been a clamor for wide-ranging election reforms. The investigation of Comelec chief Andy Bautista is a good place to start. If we cannot trust the man at the top of this sensitive poll body, whom can we trust?

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