Comelec chief using Corona defense in SALN issue: lawyer

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 23 2017 10:44 AM

MANILA - Commission on Elections Chairman Andy Bautista is using the same defense raised by the late former Chief Justice Corona in defending his alleged unexplained wealth, a lawyer of the Volunteers Against Crimes and Corruption said Wednesday.

Atty. Manuel Luna, VACC legal counsel, said "co-mingling" of funds does not exempt the poll chief from his duty to fully and accurately declare his wealth on his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN).

"This is the same as the one raised during the Corona impeachment, and mind you, this is not a strong defense because even if the funds are co-mingled, you have the duty to declare that in your SALN," he told ANC.

Bautista's wife Patricia earlier 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 (SALN).

Among the documents showed by Patricia "Tish" Bautista was a passbook for two branches of Luzon Development Bank amounting to a total of P300 million.

She also showed envelopes that were apparently pay slips, still with cash inside.

The Comelec chief, however, denied his wife's claim that he did not declare nearly P1 billion of his wealth and accused her of attempting to extort money from him and having an affair.

He earlier told ANC part of his wealth came from earnings of his family's investments.

The VACC is set to file an impeachment complaint against Bautista. Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque is endorsing the impeach raps, Luna said.

The lawyer said Bautista's non-disclosure of assets and liabilities in his SALN is their most potent ground for unseating the poll chief.

"You should be very specific [in your declarations in the SALN] because the guidelines issued by the Civil Service Commission are very stringent and detailed. The evil here is to prevent accumulation of wealth at the expense of the public," he said.

Another ground of the impeachment against Bautista is the leak of personal data in 2016 when the Comelec website was hacked. Another one is the introduction of a new script in the transparency server in the canvassing of votes.