MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang called for a thorough probe into the corruption allegations against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista, whose wife Patricia Paz "Tish" Bautista claimed he may have nearly P1 billion in unexplained wealth.
"The whole matter has to be fully investigated. At this stage, that's all I can say," said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella on Monday, August 7.
In a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Patricia said National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Dante Gierran had already been summoned to Malacañang by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte when they met on July 26.
Patricia said she submitted her sworn affidavit to the NBI on August 1.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has since ordered the NBI, an attached agency of the Department of Justice (DOJ), to launch a probe.
"NBI, through its Director, is hereby directed and granted the 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 Bautista," reads Department Order No. 517 signed by Aguirre on Monday.
Aguirre ordered Gierran to submit to him a monthly report related to the investigation.
DOJ officially directs NBI to investigate ill-gotten weath claims vs Comelec Chair Andy Bautista made by his wife Patricia @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/uJTOR06Kl1 — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) August 7, 2017
'Husband vs the people'
At the Senate, Majority Leader Vicente III filed Senate Resolution No. 456, directing the Senate blue ribbon committee to investigate Bautista's alleged violation of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. Senator Richard Gordon is the chair of the panel.
"The Comelec, as a constitutional body, must not only be compliant with the laws ensuring honesty and integrity in the performance of government service, but also be above suspicion of any irregularity being the guardian of the Philippine electoral system," Sotto said in the resolution.
Senator Grace Poe shared the same view, saying the issue "goes beyond a domestic dispute," as it involves alleged massive corruption.
"It is an allegation of corruption of epic proportions that definitely concerns public interest given the sensitive position in our democratic setup Chairman Bautista occupies. It can no longer be framed merely as a 'wife vs husband' quarrel. The information made public points to the possibility of a 'husband vs the people' case," Poe said in a statement.
She also said there is an "urgent" need for a lifestyle check among high-level Comelec officials.
Bautista has denied the accusations, dismissing these as part of an extortion attempt by his wife. Patricia said she has been wanting to separate since 2013.
Patricia claims to be in possession of documents, including peso passbook accounts worth more than P329 million, a US dollar account worth P640,959, a Hong Kong dollar account worth P6.1 million, and condominium units in Taguig and San Francisco, USA. Patricia claims these were not listed in her husband's SALN.
In his 2016 SALN, Bautista reported a net worth of P176.3 million. Bautista is the richest chief of the Philippines' 5 constitutional bodies which include the Comelec, Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Audit, and Civil Service Commission.
Bautista's 2015 and 2016 SALNs are here:
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Asked whether Malacañang would support impeachment proceedings against Bautista if the allegations prove true, Abella responded, "The President's stance is pretty clear regarding this matter – that we will not tolerate corruption, even a whiff of it." – with reports from Pia Ranada & Camille Elemia / Rappler.com