Wife accuses Comelec chair of 'unexplained wealth'

MANILA, Philippines – The wife of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista is accusing him of having nearly P1 billion worth of unexplained wealth, according to a report on Monday, August 7.

Bautista denied the accusations, saying it was an "extortion attempt."

Patricia Paz "Tish" Bautista said in an affidavit submitted last August 1 to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that she has discovered information showing the Comelec chief "might have had, or currently has, misleading and corrupt practices while in government service," the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

Mrs Bautista submitted the affidavit after meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang, to whom she first disclosed the information. She said she was accompanied by lawyers during the meeting, the Inquirer reported.

In his 2016 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), Bautista reported a net worth of P176.3 million.

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But in her affidavit, Mrs Bautista said she has discovered a number of assets that were not listed in his SALN. These included the following:

Mrs Bautista also said that aside from their family condominium units at the Pacific Plaza Towers in Taguig, she was not aware of 13 other properties in the Comelec chief's SALN, saying that she had no hand in purchasing these properties.

These properties, she said in her affidavit, could be worth between P250 million and P300 million based on her own assessment, the Inquirer reported.

Aside from these assets, Mrs Bautista also said her husband has investments abroad "in the form of his interests in corporations and loan agreements" not included in his SALN. These include offshore companies established in the British Virgin Islands, Brunei, and Anguilla.

She said in her affidavit that she has confronted her husband about it, but he denied involvement in the companies. However, she said it is "highly suspicious" that he has copies of documents related to the companies. 

Mrs Bautista told the Inquirer that during their July 26 meeting in Malacañang, Duterte was "surprised" by the revelation, and told her he would help her. NBI Director Dante Gierran was then summoned to the Palace to start coordinating with her legal team. 

She said she is scared of her husband, and of what he could do to her and her family. She has already filed a case against him for "emotional and economic sabotage" and said she has wanted to separate from him since 2013. They have been married for 17 years.

'Extortion attempt'

In response, Bautista said in a separate Inquirer report that his wife just wants to "extort" money from him.

The Comelec chairman denied his wife's accusations, adding that she "ransacked" his cabinet in their condominium unit last year and "stole" his "financial documents."

He then accused his wife of having an "extravagant, ostentatious" lifestyle herself.

He also said that she asked for a P620-million "settlement" from him, an amount Bautista said he cannot afford.

The poll chief said he is willing to "settle financially" with his wife to put the matter to rest. – Rappler.com