COMELEC Chair cries blackmail and extortion by his estranged wife; ready to face probe

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 7) — Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Chairman Andres "Andy" Bautista on Monday lashed back at his estranged wife, describing her accusation that he has amassed unexplained wealth as blackmail and an attempt to squeeze money out of him.

The COMELEC Chief told CNN Philippines that he and his wife, Patricia, were already in talks to end their 17-year marriage amicably but these bogged down because she wanted more money than he could afford.

Bautista said his wife asked for P620 million and several properties, but he told her he cannot give what he does not have.

Patricia, in her sworn affidavit to the National Bureau of Investigation, accused her husband of amassing over P335 million pesos in bank accounts and real estate which he failed to disclose in his 2016 Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SALN). 

 

 

She said the COMELEC official acquired all these assets through "misleading and corrupt practices while in office."

"The substantial deposits and withdrawals in each of the accounts were made within the last two years, and coincidentally, while Andy was already the COMELEC Chairman and when the 2016 National and Local Elections were conducted," Patricia noted.

Bautista declared a net worth of P176.3 million in his 2016 SALN, a document most government officials are required to submit.

READ: Comelec Chair's wife details Andy Bautista's unexplained wealth

Allegations denied

The COMELEC official denied the charges and questioned the timing of Patricia's public revelations. 

"This thing has been going on for the last 10 months, bakit sila ngayon lalabas? Because pera nga eh, pera-pera lang. Kung talagang sinasabi nilang merong mali, bakit hindi nila nilabas agad?" Bautista told CNN Philippines in an interview.

[Translation: This thing has been going on for the last 10 months, why did they come out just now? Because it's all about the money. If they're saying there's something wrong, why didn't they come out right away?]

"Hindi po totoo ang mga paratang na isinasampa sa akin. Ito pong aming problemang personal na matagal na ay ngayon binabahiran ng pulitika... Ipapakita namin na ito ay isang kaso ng pangingikil at panggigipit," he said.

[Translation: There is no truth to their claims. Our personal problem has been tainted with politics. We are going to prove they are out to extort and blackmail.]

He said the documents presented are fabricated.

 

"They stole documents. I don't even know what they have. I don't know whether these documents that they have are authentic because I know that they have fabricated, embellished. I have a list of the bank accounts. Out of 25 bank accounts, I would say maybe half would be fake," he noted. 

Patricia filed a statement and documents with the National Bureau of Investigation on August 1, showing her husband had over P336 million in local and foreign bank accounts. She also listed 14 properties in the Philippines and abroad worth more than P300,000,000, as well as investments in companies based in the British Virgin Islands, Brunei Darussalam, and Anguilla — all under Bautista's name.

 

She presented 30 deposits under Bautista's name and some of his family members in the Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City branch of the Luzon Development Bank (LDB) amounting to about P227,701,053. Another five bank accounts in the LDB's Makati branch contains P101,519,909.

Bautista confirmed he has deposits in LDB, but said these are not all his.  

"We have deposits in LDB. She stole the passbooks. These deposits are in the names of my father, my mother, myself, and my sister. These monies do not all belong to me. Since 1998, my siblings have been co-investing with me... I don't think it goes up to that 300 million, but there is a few hundred million, maybe 200 plus. It is possible," he said.

As for an account with the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp. (HSBC) allegedly containing HK$948,358.97, Bautista dismissed it as a "complete falsehood."

"If that is true, it is hers," he snapped. 

Bautista also denied he has three offshore accounts.

"There is only one… I've had offshore accounts, but right now, I only have one that is shared with my family," he said.

Patricia produced payslips and checks written out to her husband from Divina Law "as commission for assisting" the firm's "clients with the Comelec."

Divina Law is the firm of lawyer Nilo Divina — dean of the University of Sto. Tomas College of Law — described by Patricia as one of Bautista's best friends. Among the cases Divina Law handled involved "government clients" such as  the Bataan Shipping and Engineering Company and United Coconut Planters Bank.

"I do not get commissions. Sometimes there are what you would call referral fees, but these have nothing to do with my position in the Comelec... You could see that the Divina Law Firm has not represented any client here in Comelec… There were certain monies that he would give me, that's true. But it's not a lot. All of these are reflected in the SALN," Bautista explained.

Divina on Tuesday said his law firm will file an action for libel against Patricia Bautista and persons who "aided, abetted, assisted, and conspired with her in weaving false stories against the firm."

President Duterte mediates

Bautista revealed that Patricia's lawyer Martin Loon had threatened that they would go to President Duterte if the COMELEC Chief refused to agree to his client's demand for settlement. 

Patricia said she met with the President on July 26. They had a second meeting also in Malacañang on August 1 where her husband was also present.

"Basically it was a meeting between the President, myself, and her," Bautista confirmed.

Like his wife, Bautista said Duterte expressed concern for the estranged couple's children.

"The President said, 'Andy, baka naman pwede mong increase 'yung 90 million to x amount.' (Maybe you can increase the 90 million to x amount) The President was very kind. He was concerned about the children," the COMELEC official revealed. 

Bautista explained that and his wife had previously agreed on a P90 million settlement, already raised from P70 million. 

The COMELEC Chair said he thought they would reach a final settlement after the meeting with Duterte. Instead, Patricia filed her sworn statement with the NBI.

Patricia's lawyer Bernard Aniag said she was endorsed to the NBI, on Duterte's orders, and was asked to execute an affidavit.

The Palace has yet to confirm if Duterte met with Bautista and his wife. Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella would only say that there was a "slot" for a private meeting on July 26.

"There was a closed meeting but I cannot confirm if it was them," he said.

Bautista open to investigation

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ordered the NBI to look into Bautista's alleged failure to include all his assets in his 2016 SALN.

Senator Tito Sotto also wants the Blue Ribbon Committee investigate the accusations against the COMELEC Chair.

Bautista, an impeachable official, said he had no wish to be a burden to the COMELEC but is not considering quitting his post. 

"Ito ay sinabi ko rin sa ating Pangulo, ako ay hindi kapit tuko sa kahit anumang posisyon na ako ay naluluklok. Kung ako ay magiging pabigat lang sa isang institusyon, wala na akong karapatan na manatili. I don't want that (COMELEC ) reputation to be tarnished," he said.

[Translation: I told this to the President, I don't cling to my positions. If I will be a burden to the institution, I don't have a right to stay. I don't want that (COMELEC ) reputation to be tarnished.]

Abella did not say if Duterte would support the filing of an impeachment case against Bautista, stressing only that the President does not tolerate corruption.

"The whole matter needs to be fully investigated…. The President's stand is pretty clear regarding this matter — that he will not tolerate corruption, even a whiff of it," the spokesperson said. 

Bautista did not balk at the idea.  

"I'm open to any inquiry, if it's a legislative inquiry, no problem," he said.

Bautista and his wife have four young sons.  When asked what he told them about their situation, Bautista replied, "Their mother had hired lawyers who are there to harass me, who have been pressuring me. They've been trying to extort money. We will be proving this in court. We will show the evidence to say this is a pure extortion blackmail."

This story was updated on August 8 to add the legal action of Atty. Nilo Divina.