MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista on Monday, August 7, denied his wife's accusation that he has "unexplained wealth," saying she is "motivated by greed."
In a statement, Bautista expressed "extreme disappointment" over the claims made by his "estranged" wife, Patricia Paz "Tish" Bautista.
"Her allegations are all lies, and I categorically deny all of them," the Comelec chief said.
"Sa totoo lang po, ako po ay biktima rito, biktima ng pagtataksil... Ang aking pagkatao, para po akong nagahasa sa aking sariling pamamahay," he added in a press conference shortly before noon. (I am the victim here, a victim of betrayal. It feels like I've been "raped" in my own household.)
"Ipapakita po namin sa mga susunod na araw na ito po ay isang kaso ng pangingikil at panggigipit." (We will show in the following days that this is a case of extortion and harassment.)
In his statement, Bautista said he had hoped to fix their marital problem "in a civil and decent manner," but his wife's recent statements and actions "clearly manifest that she has no desire to save the marriage."
"It is now clear she is motivated by greed and that she will stop at nothing to besmirch my reputation and that of my family for the purpose of financial gain," he continued.
He also said he was disappointed that his wife "[allowed] herself to be used by certain people and groups to promote a political agenda designed to cast aspersions on me and the Comelec's work in the 2016 elections."
In a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mrs Bautista accused the poll chief of amassing nearly P1 billion in unexplained wealth.
These supposedly came in the form of money in 4 bank accounts, two condominium units, real properties, and "interests in corporations and loan agreements" in 3 overseas or offshore companies.
Mrs Bautista added that these were not declared in her husband's Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). In his 2016 SALN, the Comelec chief declared a net worth of P176.3 million.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the claims of Bautista's wife.
Asked if he is ready to face an impeachment complaint, Bautista said, "We are ready to face anything and everything."
"It is unfortunate that my ex-wife's greed has resulted in irreparable damage to me, my family, her own family, and most importantly to our children," Bautista said.
He explained that it has been "10 months since she stole cash, [gift certificates], ATM cards, and other financial documents belonging to myself and my family."
Bautista then claimed that his wife's lawyers "embellished, doctored, or fabricated" many of these documents.
He added: "Throughout this time, she has repeatedly attempted to extort and blackmail me using her lawyers and media contacts. And when she realized that no windfall was forthcoming, she decided to file her affidavit based on fabrications and lies."
He then countered in his statement that Mrs Bautista has a "long-time lover," and both of them "concocted this extortion plan with guidance from ill-intentioned lawyers who thought they could threaten me into simply turning over hard-earned and legitimately-acquired assets belonging to me and my family."
Bautista did not name his wife's supposed lover.
"I will not give in to blackmail," he said.
In Monday's press conference, Bautista claimed that while he was in the United States to observe the elections, he got a call from his bank, saying his wife was "withdrawing $117,000 and P250,000" from their joint account and "transferring it to her personal account."
Bautista also explained that he has one offshore account, "but this one is shared with my family."
"Over the years, my family, including my parents who are heirs, and my brothers and sisters who live in the US, have been regularly co-investing with me since the 1990s," he said. "All of these are documented and we can show it."
Duterte as mediator
Bautista also said President Rodrigo Duterte "mediated" in their marital problem during a meeting in Malacañang on August 1. He was accompanied by his eldest sister, mother-in-law, and stepfather-in-law.
"The President was very kind. He was not only a mediator but a marriage counselor," the Comelec chief said. "He recounted his own experiences with his family. He was providing us good advice."
Bautista then recounted that his wife was in another room during his meeting with the President. The 3 of them met afterwards to discuss the issue.
Bautista also said Duterte did not ask him to resign. "Ako naman, ang sabi ko sa kanya, 'Hindi po ako kapit-tuko sa kahit anong posisyon o panunungkulan. Kung ang palagay ko, ako ay nagiging pabigat na sa isang institusyon, wala namang problema sa aking magbitiw.' Pero ang sabi niya sa akin, 'I am not asking you to resign. That is really your call.'"
(I told the President, "I am not clinging to any position. If I think I am becoming a liability to an institution, resigning is not a problem for me." But he told me, "I am not asking you to resign. That is really your call.")
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.