Aguirre: Comelec chief’s estranged wife may apply as state witness

By , on August 14, 2017

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II (PNA Photo)
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II (PNA Photo)

MANILA —The wife of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista can apply in the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP), Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Monday.

Aguirre said Patricia Paz Bautista may seek government security under the WPP after submitting her affidavit accusing the poll chief of having hidden wealth worth some PHP1 billion.

The DOJ chief explained that Bautista’s estranged wife can be placed under the WPP as she is reportedly receiving death threats after revealing such information.

Patricia Paz has already presented documents to the NBI, including alleged records on numerous bank accounts of his husband.

She claimed in her affidavit submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that her husband, who was appointed as Comelec chairperson in May 2015 by then President Benigno Aquino III, had money in banks, condominiums, and interest and shares in companies established overseas worth almost PHP1 billion which he did not declare in his 2016 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

Bautista has declared a net worth of PHP176.3 million in 2016.

On Sunday, Aguirre said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will be joining the ongoing probe on Bautista’s alleged undeclared wealth.

“The BIR wants to partner with us in this investigation. We need to see if there are tax liabilities based on the affidavit and documents we have gathered,” said Aguirre, who met with BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay on Sunday as they discussed the parameters of the investigation and sharing of documents and findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Aguirre said the BIR chief will issue a letter of authority to Bautista and others mentioned in Patricia’s affidavit.

Last week, the DOJ chief ordered the NBI to probe the allegations against the Comelec chair and build criminal cases that could be pursued once Bautista resigns, finishes his term or be removed from his post via impeachment.

He has directed the NBI to request bank records of accounts under Bautista’s name with the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The NBI, through its Anti-Fraud Division, already started with its investigation.

Based on the progress report submitted to Aguirre, the NBI already coordinated with various agencies including the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to examine the more than 30 bank accounts mentioned by Patricia.

“The conduct of parallel money laundering investigation was likewise requested from AMLC,” the NBI report stated.

The NBI likewise coordinated with the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) which Bautista headed from 2010 to 2015.

The NBI also coordinated with the Office of the Ombudsman for Bautista’s SALN. They also coordinated with the Land Registration Authority (LRA), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) and various property developers. In justifying the investigation, Aguirre said the marital spat is unfortunate “but the government has to protect the public interest.”

In related development, Former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras on Monday asked the NBI for copies of the affidavit of Patricia Paz, bank accounts and other documents she submitted in preparation for the filing of impeachment complaint against Bautista.

In a letter addressed to NBI Director Dante Gierran, Paras through his lawyer Manuelito Luna also asked for copies of the 35 Luzon Development Bank passbooks mentioned by Patricia Paz in her affidavit to the NBI.

“In behalf of our client, former Negros Oriental congressman and Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption member Jacinto V. Paras, and in connection with the filing of an impeachment complaint against Comelec Chairman J. Andres D. Bautista, may we respectfully request for certified copies of the Affidavit of (Mrs.) Patricia Bautista and the 35 Luzon Development Bank (LDB) passbooks, RCBC peso account document and other documents submitted to your good office,” the one-page letter dated Aug. 14 submitted to the NBI.

“Our said client is resorting to this request owing to the fact that the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives will not accept any documents other than certified or original, appended to impeachment complaints,” it added.

Bautista has recently been hurdling deadlines due to corruption allegations bared by his estranged wife.

In her affidavit, Bautista claimed that her husband amassed about “PHP1 billion” unexplained wealth.

The Comelec chief belied the allegation, stating that he only declared a total of PHP176.3 million in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for 2016.

She added that the Comelec chair has has several bank accounts, real properties, foreign investment and properties, and several checks and commission sheets from Divina Law, where Mr. Bautista practiced law before engaging in public service.

Aguirre said that the NBI probe “can be used as basis in filing an impeachment complaint” against the embattled commissioner.

However, Bautista has denied the allegations.  (PNA)