Aguirre: PCGG to conduct own probe Comelec chair’s ‘undeclared wealth’

By on August 12, 2017

Comelec Chair Andres Bautista. (PNA PHOTO)
Comelec Chair Andres Bautista. (PNA PHOTO)

MANILA – Aside from National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) will conduct its own probe on Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista’s alleged undeclared wealth worth PHP1 billion, said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Friday.

“Not only the NBI has the power to investigate the PCGG also has the power to investigate the ill gotten wealth,” he said.

Aguirre said he met with acting PCGG chair Reynaldo Munsayac and two other commissioners Rey Bulay and John Agbayani who provided them with documents on possible anomalies.

When asked what the documents are about, he said “cases of possible ghost employees, travel violations not in accordance with administrative procedure (but) we are still on the initial stage

“The PCGG is also conducting investigation on possible violation during the term of Bautista as PCGG chair. I was talking to the three commissioners Reynaldo Munsayac, Rey Bulay, John Agbayani, nagbigay (sila) ng document but we are still studying it. So siguro by next week may report on that,” Aguirre told reporters in a chance interview.

“Meron kahina-hinala when he was (in) PCGG but that was the assessment of the three commissioners. Hopefully, this would be part of the report that will be submitted to us,” Aguirre noted.

Bautista served as PCGG head in 2010 before being appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III as Comelec Chairman in 2015.

Aguirre also tasked NBI to coordinate with Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in probing since it has a memorandum of agreement with the former and considering that Bautista’s wife, Patricia Paz, has already presented documents to the NBI, including alleged records on numerous bank accounts of his husband.

“I also directed the NBI to conduct an investigation into possible allegations of related to AMLA. You can recall the DOJ has no MOA with AMLC. It is only the NBI who could request data and info from AMLC that could be used for possible indictment for violation,” he explained adding that in NBI probe there were no additional details but hopefully next week there would be progress report.

Aguirre said they will not ask Bautista to issue a waiver allowing the examination of his accounts, it will be easier for the investigators if he will provide one.

Under the Bank Secrecy Law, all deposits with banks or banking institutions in the country are considered absolutely confidential in nature and may not be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office, except upon written permission of the depositor, or in cases of impeachment, or upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials, or in cases where the money deposited or invested is the subject matter of the litigation.

“It is up to him (Bautista) to issue a waiver or not. If he will, well and good,” Aguirre said.

Asked if there is deadline for NBI to submit the report, Aguirre answered “ I did not impose deadline especially wala pa naman case na file with respect to impeachment. Alam ko lang through media reports what cases they filed against each other, the wife and the husband.”

Bautista has filed several charges of grave coercion, qualified theft, robbery, against his estranged wife in connection with the latter’s accusation that he has unexplained wealth amounting to close to PHP1 billion.

The poll body chief noted that charges have been filed against Patricia Bautista at the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office.

Aguirre said Patricia Paz’s allegation stating that his husband has ill-gotten wealth cannot be considered as a private matter.

“Hindi siguro maaaring maseparate yun, kasi I’m sure na they are intertwined. Yung mga personal issues, which for the mount of criminal prosecution, or criminal violation,” said Aguirre.

“This is not a private relationship matter. It concerns the money of the people of the Philippines. Whether they settle, I think the proceedings will continue either in the impeachment court or ordinary criminal proceedings,” he stressed.

Aguirre also bared that probers would look into possible cases of money laundering and violations of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) if evidence would be gathered against the poll chief.

“Wherever evidence would lead us, then that’s it. There’s an allegation about receiving commission so that could fall under R.A. 3019,” he explained.

Aguirre noted that any results of the investigation being conducted by the NBI on the alleged undeclared assets of Bautista may be used as evidence in any impeachment or criminal proceeding against him.

The DOJ chief reiterated that they are not prohibited from proceeding with the investigation even if Bautista is an impeachable official.

“The immunity of the impeachable officers is the filing but you are not prohibited from investigating so in the event that this investigation will be able to some evidence then later on, the evidence gathered during this investigation could be presented as an evidence during the impeachment trial,” Aguirre told reporters.

He also said that evidence can also be used in any criminal case that might be filed against Bautista later or even if he is acquitted in an impeachment proceedings.

Bautista, he stressed, could still face possible criminal cases even if he is acquitted in an impeachment trial.

“If he is acquitted in the impeachment trial, there are aspects that may not have been possibly covered by the impeachment trial that he could be investigated and a complaint could be filed despite an acquittal in the impeachment trial. We could wait for the expiration of his term (if he is acquitted and remains an impeachable official) before the appropriate criminal cases are filed,” Aguirre further explained.

The DOJ chief earlier issued DO 517 giving the NBI authority to investigate and do a case build-up on the allegations of Bautista’s estranged wife Patricia Paz that her husband’s assets is worth PHP1-billion contrary to what is indicated in his statement of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN).

Aguirre directed NBI Director Dante Gierran to conduct a probe and case build-up based on the allegations of Bautista’s wife.

“The NBI, through its Director, is hereby directed and granted authority to conduct investigation and case build-up over the alleged failure to disclose pertinent information required in the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of Chairperson Andres D. Bautista contained in the affidavit of Mrs. Patricia Paz Bautista including possible determination of violation of Anti-Money Laundering Law and other related laws,” read the order signed by Aguirre.

Aguirre required the NBI to submit a monthly report on any updates of its investigation.

The allegation against Bautista came after his wife met with President Duterte and executed an affidavit, which was then forwarded to the NBI.

In her affidavit, Patricia Paz said she has discovered a number of assets that were not listed in his SALN.

She said she was disclosing “certain information and documents that would show that Andy (Bautista’s nickname) might have had, or currently has, misdealing and corrupt practices while in government service.”

The Comelec chief already denied the allegation, stressing it could be a part of extortion by his estranged wife, who he revealed has asked for a PHP620-million settlement.

Bautista declared a net worth of PHP176.3 million in his SALN.