Comelec's Bautista may have violated anti-graft law: Escudero

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 29 2017 10:31 AM | Updated as of Aug 29 2017 12:28 PM

MANILA - Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista may have violated the anti-graft law by depositing assets of sequestered companies to a private bank while he was serving as chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, Senator Francis Escudero said Tuesday.

Escudero, chair of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, said Bautista's silence on the PCGG assets parked in the Luzon Development Bank is "deafening."

"That’s something that Chairman Bautista should answer. Walang kinalaman ito sa impeachment complaint, walang kinalaman sa mga reklamong hinain laban sa kaniya, at nakakabingi yung katahimikan niya kaugnay nito," he told ANC's Headstart.

"At the very least, that opens him up to a possible violation of Section 3 of the Anti-graft law, which is giving undue advantage," he said.

"Why did he transfer—I don’t know how much, probably millions or hundreds of millions? Bakit pa sa sequestered kung maliit lang? Malamang malaki yun. Bakit ilalagay sa Luzon Development Bank?," he added.

Escudero noted that in a previous interview with Headstart, Bautista admitted personally knowing the owners of the bank.

"Hindi maganda, in the very least. Why LDB compared to other banks? That also opens up on the Committee on Banks to look into this," he said.

"The law says giving undue advantage. Clearly, LDB was given undue advantage, if at all, against other banks," he added.

Part of Section 3 of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act states that this constitutes corrupt practices of any public officer and is declared unlawful: 

"Neglecting or refusing, after due demand or request, without sufficient justification, to act within a reasonable time on any matter pending before him for the purpose of obtaining, directly or indirectly, from any person interested in the matter some pecuniary or material benefit or advantage, or for the purpose of favoring his own interest or giving undue advantage in favor of or discriminating against any other interested party."

In a Senate hearing led by Escudero, the National Bureau of Investigation said sequestered companies managed by the PCGG during Bautista's tenure of Chairman Andres Bautista had accounts in Luzon Development Bank.

NBI Anti-Fraud Division head Atty. Minerva Retanal told a Senate investigation the accounts were transferred to LDB from another bank after Bautista took office as PCGG chair.

Bautista had been accused by his wife, Patricia, of keeping 32 passbooks for two branches of Luzon Development Bank amounting to a total of P300 million. 

Patricia said she found the amount of money she discovered questionable because her husband's statement of assets liabilities and net worth for 2016 shows only P176 million of his wealth.

Bautista, for his part, maintained that a "demolition job" was behind allegations that he misdeclared his wealth.