Bautista: I’m not resigning
PATRICIA Paz Bautista, estranged wife of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Juan Andres Bautista, claimed on Tuesday her husband received some P500,000 in referral fees from controversial automated election technology provider Smartmatic Corp.
Patricia, who is fighting for her legal share of her husband’s wealth, has accused the Comelec chief of amassing nearly P1 billion in ill-gotten wealth and getting commissions or referral fees from the law office of Nilo Divina.
In a television interview on Tuesday, Patricia, 47, claimed to have evidence proving that her husband received commissions from Smartmatic through DivinaLaw.
Divina, managing partner of DivinaLaw and dean of the UST law college, is a close friend of Bautista, who himself had been law dean of Far Eastern University.
It remains unclear when Bautista received the commissions. Bautista had pointed out that Smartmatic has been the Comelec’s technology provider since 2010 or five years before he was appointed chairman of the poll body.
DivinaLaw is also just one of the many law firms engaged by Smartmatic, Bautista had said.
Bautista had admitted to receiving “referral fees” from Divina but pointed out that they were commissions and had nothing to do with his position as Comelec chairman.
In her August 1 affidavit, Patricia noted that DivinaLaw has also been handling, among others, government clients like Baseco and UCPB , which she claimed “Andy (Bautista) constantly dealt with while he was the PCGG (Presidential Commission on Good Government) chairman.”
Patricia said her lawyers had told her Bautista could be liable for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act, which could also be grounds for impeachment.
She claimed that she executed the August 1 affidavit to protect her family and to make a distinction between the “clean” and “dirty” money that formed part of their conjugal property.
Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque had also said Bautista’s admission made him liable for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Bautista, being a public official, is not allowed under the law to receive any gift or consideration from anybody who has interest in his office, Roque said.
The National Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into Bautista’s finances, amid critics’ claims the commissions from Smartmatic had thrown all elections supervised by the Comelec chief in doubt.
Bautista won’t quit
Also on Tuesday, the Comelec chief denied reports he was stepping down from office after allegations by his wife, Particia, that he had amassed nearly P1 billion in ill-gotten wealth.
“Not true,” Bautista told The Manila Times in a phone interview from Davao City where he was attending a public hearing on the proposed postponement of the village and youth polls in October.
Asked if he was going to meet President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao, Bautista said the President was not there.
He maintained that the hidden-wealth allegations against him were half-truths, and boiled down to the P620-million demand of his estranged wife.
“I am the aggrieved party here and I’m ready to face them in court,” he said.
But in earlier interviews and public statements, Bautista hinted at stepping down from office rather than risk an impeachment ordeal.
“If it was just me, sure I would [go through the impeachment process]in order to vindicate myself. But, at the same time, I recognize that there will be other people who will be brought in and its going to be messy,” Bautista earlier said.
On Monday, Bautista told election officials and employees he had no problem stepping down from office, but said what he could not take was losing his “Comelec family,” “who through the years have shown their sincere, genuine care and affection.”
He also disclosed that he had sought spiritual advice from Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
Comelec employees, in a statement, said they did not believe the allegations of Bautista’s estranged wife, saying the poll chief was a man of integrity.
Former senatorial candidate Martin Bautista has come out in support of the Comelec chief, his brother.
He claimed to have bank records, bank certificates and other documents that would support Bautista’s claim that the assets claimed by Patricia to have been ill-gotten were joint family investments.
“I believe [that]my brother [is innocent],” he said. He said he told his brother that if the allegations against him were true, “magpakamatay ka na (kill yourself).”