AMLC can’t freeze Bautista’s accounts

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Without a “predicate crime,” the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) cannot freeze the bank accounts of beleaguered Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, an official of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said.

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The NBI official, who spoke to The Manila Times on condition of anonymity, said, “AMLC could only order a freeze of bank account if there is a predicate crime clearly mentioned in the request.”

The official, who has knowledge of the pieces of evidence submitted by Patricia Paz Cruz, Bautista’s wife, asked not to be identified for fear that he might be sacked from his post or dismissed from government service.

“Predicate crime alleges that the accused has committed a major crime and in so doing he has amassed wealth. The crime could be kidnap for ransom, terrorism, plunder, corruption, being a drug lord, gambling, and qualified theft, among others. Chairman Bautista was never accused of any of these crimes,” the source said.

Asked if the wrongful declaration of a statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) is a predicate offense, the NBI official answered in the negative.

Patricia, armed with bank accounts and several documents showing ownership of properties under the name of the Comelec chair, claimed her husband has more than P1 billion in cash and properties, alleging that many of them were not included in his 2016 SALN.

The NBI official added that Bautista’s wife is precluded by law to appear as a witness in any crime allegedly committed by the latter, being a “relative.” Under the law, spouses cannot testify against each other. In the same vein, children cannot be asked to testify against their parents in any case lodged against them.

Asked for the right avenue where an investigation may be conducted on Bautista and his assets examined, the source said, “through impeachment since as chairman of the poll body, Bautista is impeachable.”

“Impeachment is the only way to prosecute him,” the NBI official said.

The AMLC is a government agency tasked to implement the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9160, also known as the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, as amended, and RA 10168, also known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

AMLC acts as the Philippines’ financial intelligence unit and anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator.

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