Sotto seeks Blue Ribbon probe on Comelec chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2017 01:11 PM

MANILA - Sen. Tito Sotto filed Monday a resolution urging the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to investigate claims that poll chief Andres Bautista has nearly P1 billion in unexplained wealth.

In the resolution, Sotto noted there is a need to investigate "new pieces of evidence" allegedly showing Bautista has unexplained wealth, which could be a violation of RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

"There is a need to determine if the present law is adequate enough to ensure compliance by all public officials with the provisions on the required submission of [statement of assets, liabilities and net worth]," the resolution read.

It added the Commission on Elections, as a Constitutional body, ""must not only be compliant with the laws ensuring honesty and integrity in the performance of government service but also be above suspicion of any irregularity being the guardian of the Philippine electoral system."

In the Philippine Daily Inquirer report, the Comelec chief's wife claimed she had discovered bank and real property documents and several passbooks under her husband's name that were not included in his 2016 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Bautista has denied his wife's claim that he has P1 billion in unexplained wealth, saying his wife was asking for P620 million before approaching the media.

He also accused his wife of having an affair and that she allegedly stole cash, GCs, ATM cards and other financial documents from their condo unit 10 months ago.

Kabayan Party List Representative Harry Roque on Monday said he is also calling for a congressional investigation into Bautista's allegedly undisclosed wealth.

"I will file a resolution to have an investigation because it is important to know if the Comelec chief's integrity is tainted because if he does, then democracy may have been sold in the last elections," he said.

Roque claimed that vouchers from Smartmatic were among the documents he saw in the possession of the camp of Bautista's wife, Mrs. Patricia Bautista. Smartmatic was the private contractor that supplied the automated election system for the 2010, 2013 and 2016 national elections.

"Well ang mga nakita ko kasi doon sa dokumento na hawak ng abugado, may mga nakita akong mga vouchers. Kasama sa mga voucher lumalabas [ay] halagang natanggap galing sa Smartmatic. Nakita ko ito Wednesday last week. Madami eh kasi lumalabas roon nangungumisyon siya sa isang law office,' Roque said.

(What I saw in the documents that the lawyer had were vouchers. Vouchers from Smartmatic were among those. I saw it Wednesday last week. What could be derived from there is he was earning commissions from a law office.)

Roque believes Bautista earned from "commissions."

"Parang nakita ko mga kaso na hinahandle ng law office at meron talaga siyang kubra doon sa mga binabayad ng mga kliyente sa law office at isang lumalabas na kliyente ay Smartmatic."

(I saw the cases handled by the law office and there really was commission from the payment of their clients and among those clients was Smartmatic.)

Before becoming Comelec Chairman, Bautista was also chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government which is in-charge of recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses.

PBA Party List Rep. Jericho Nograles for his part said, "It's a very complicated issue. It touches on family, possible [Violence Against Women and Children], possible unexplained wealth sources of income. I'd like to wait for the reaction of the Chair on the matter."

Ako Bicol Party List Rep. Alfedo Garbin said, "I think they are covered by the Rule on Marital Privilege: The COMELEC is a Constitutional Commission thus as Chairman, the removal of Andy BautisTa from the office shall only be by reason of Impeachment."

Garbin cited the following rules:

VI. EXCEPTIONS: WHEN SPOUSES MAY TESTIFY AGAINST EACH OTHER
 A. In a civil case filed by one against the other. Examples: cases of annulment, legal separation, support, declaration of mental incompetency, separation of property.
 
B. In a criminal case for a crime (i) committed by one against the other such as those involving physical assault and violence; Violation of RA 9262; economic abuse or (ii) against the direct ascendant or descendant of the other
 
C. When the reason for the law has ceased. Where the marital and domestic relations are so strained that there is no more harmony to be preserved, nor peace and tranquility which maybe disturbed, the reasons based on such harmony and tranquility no longer apply. In such cases, the identity of interest disappears and the consequent danger of perjury based on identity of interest disappears. (The law ceases when the reason for the law ceases)

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said: "Both parties can resort to legal mechanisms through our courts...Let him face the consequences. Let justice take its course. But I caution our colleagues 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." with a report by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News