MANILA (UPDATE)- The Department of Justice (DOJ) has placed under witness protection the estranged wife of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista and their 4 children amid an investigation into the official's alleged P1-billion unexplained wealth.
In a press conference Friday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Patricia Bautista and her four children were given provisional coverage under the DOJ's Witness Protection Program (WPP).
The announcement was made hours after Patricia personally handed over her application into the program.
"Mrs. Cruz-Bautista came to the DOJ freely and voluntarily, with her lawyers, to seek her admission to the WPP," Aguirre said, noting that her provisional admission to the WPP was made in consideration of her safety and security as a potential witness.
Patricia had alleged that her husband omitted P1 billion from his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth in 2016, at which time Bautista declared a P176.3-million net worth.
The Comelec chief, however, denied any wrongdoing and accused his wife of stealing passbooks and other bank documents from their home. He also alleged that Patricia attempted to extort money from him and that she was involved with another man.
The poll chief on Friday admitted that he was considering resigning from his post amid the corruption allegations.
Patricia has yet to ink a memorandum of agreement with the WPP and submit a sworn statement and other necessary requirements to be placed under full program coverage.
She refused to talk about threats to her and her children's security, saying: "My coming here, I guess, validates the need, but I can't comment at this time."
"It hasn't been easy but I've received a lot of support and kindness and I can't be more grateful. As in all things, I think we have to rise to the occasion and we have to be as strong as we can be, but again it hasn't been easy," she said.
She also debunked her husband's claim that their sons were no longer going to school because of the family crisis.
"My kids go to school that is very supportive of them. They are not being bullied at all. In fact, it's the opposite. They are being supported by their school and their classmates," she said.
Asked if she had any regrets coming out in public, Patricia pointed out that she did what she had to do because her husband is a public official.
"Do I regret it? Many things happened that I wasn't prepared for and I don't think anybody can be prepared for, but it is what it is… I'm doing my job as, I guess, a Filipino citizen," she said.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), an attached agency of the DOJ, is investigating Bautista's alleged unexplained wealth.
Aguirre said the bureau may give an update on the investigation in the coming days.