Andy Bautista: Out of sight, out of mind!

IN case the public has forgotten, Andres “Andy” Bautista was former chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), then moved on to become chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Sometime in August last year, Andy’s wife Patricia “Tish” Bautista made a shocking exposé of documents which alleged that her husband has amassed nearly P1 billion worth of bank assets, much more than the declared P173 million in his 2016 Statement of Assets and Liabilities.

Patricia also disclosed that she had documents that showed “almost daily” bank deposits to husband Andy’s account in 2016, which was an election year. Patricia said the deposits never exceeded P500,000, which she said was done probably to avoid scrutiny of the Anti-Money Laundering Council. Patricia surrendered to then-Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 35 Luzon Development Bank Passbook Accounts and an RCBC peso account ostensibly in  the name of certain family members of Andy. (Rappler.com/August 14, 2017) Also submitted to the justice secretary was an official PCGG Audit report showing the complicity of then-Comelec chairman Bautista, Smartmatic and Divinalaw headed by University of Santo Thomas Law Dean Nilo Divina.

Patricia’s allegations became the basis of an impeachment complaint filed in August last year by former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras and lawyers Ferdinand Topacio and Manuelito Luna for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution over allegations of ill-gotten wealth. Paras likewise alleged in the impeachment complaint Andy Bautista’s “receipts of referral fees from Smartmatic through Divina Law Offices, which  is tantamount to indirect bribery under the Revised Penal Code and constitutes a violation of Sec. 3(b) Republic Act 3019.” The Paras impeachment complaint also alleged Bautista’s “neglect of duties and responsibilities in implementing the Data Privacy Act that could have prevented the data breach in the Comelec, an incident that came to be known as ‘Comeleak.’ Bautista also allegedly failed to urgently act on the hacking of the Comelec web site, and also declined to assume control and supervision at the Task Force that was created to look into the data leak.  He [Bautista] needs to be told that the hacking of the Comelec web site before the 2016 National and Local Elections—wherein the personal data of millions of voters were breached—was a serious privacy violation or personal data breach requiring swift and decisive actions. Had he acted with utmost urgency, the damage could have been minimized,” the impeachment complaint read.   Bautista allegedly obstructed justice when he downplayed that a “script tweak” in the 2016 Elections was merely “a cosmetic change, which was in effect an exoneration of Smartmatic”  (Inquirer.net/August 23, 2017).

A total of 137 lawmakers voted to impeach Bautista, overturning the House Justice Committee’s dismissal of the Paras impeachment complaint, which was earlier found to be insufficient in form due to defective verification.  In an obvious attempt to render moot his impeachment by the House Plenary, Bautista tendered his resignation on October 11, 2017, effective on December 31, 2017. He was forced to step down two months ahead of schedule after President Duterte ordered his resignation to take effect immediately.

Patricia vowed to pursue plunder charges against Bautista who, having been impeached,  “could no longer hide behind his immunity as chairman of the Constitutional body. also to be impleaded in complicity with Bautista is Divina Law, Smartmatic and the family members who made possible the stealing from the Filipino people of at the very least P1.2 billion” (The Manila Times, October 25, 2017).

In a parallel development, Sen. Francis G. Escudero, chairman of the Senate Banks Committee then investigating the bank accounts of Bautista and family members in Luzon Development Bank (“in aid of legislation” anent the current bank secrecy laws) issued a warrant of arrest for Bautista’s ignoring of the (Senate Committee) hearing at least thrice despite the issuance of a subpoena. Bautista claimed that he has been abroad since November 21, 2017, “to explore career opportunities and seek medical
assistance. Senator Escudero questioned the accuracy of Bautista’s claim. The OSAA [Senate’s Office of the Sergeant-At-Arms] will try to serve it [arrest warrant] by coordinating with various law-enforcement agencies including the Bureau of Immigration and wait for it to be returned, served or unserved and will submit a corresponding report to the committee,”   Escudero said (Rappler.com, February 26, 2018).

Bautista has not been heard from since November last year.  Fast-forward to November this year:

The DOJ has not yet “completed” its investigation on the plunder complaint filed by Patricia, this despite all passbooks, e-mails, documents and other material evidence having been submitted to the NBI as far back as August last year.  It is hoped that new Justice Secretary Maynard Guevarra will show more political will than his predecessor.

The Senate Bank’s Committee continues to be stonewalled by Luzon Development Bank’s (LDB) hiding behind the bank secrecy laws, this despite the obvious violation of Amla regulations.

No freeze order on the Bautista/LDB’s indecent violations of money- laundering laws has been issued by the Anti-Money Laundering Committee or by the State  (motu propio) under its police powers.

Bautista has abandoned his family since November last year, this despite his avowed love for his children who now have no financial support from their father.

Bautista claims he will prove his innocence before the appropriate venue, daring Patricia and her lawyers “to just file their case in court and not try the case in media” (Kicker Daily News, October 24, 2017).  Where is he now? One does not need to be a bar topnotcher to know that “flight is consistent with guilt not innocence.”

And, most disturbing (as of this writing) a reliable source has given me information that a former United States ambassador has recently helped Andy Bautista stay in the US by submitting a letter to the State Department in support of Andy’s continuous stay in the US.  Apparently, Atty. Ted Laguatan, a California-based Filipino lawyer who specializes in human-rights cases and immigration, was allegedly Andy’s intermediary to get to the US ambassador to lobby for this huge favor.  My source disclosed that Andy misrepresented that the reason for his exile and inability to return to the Philippines is his “philandering” and involvement with several women, which allegedly triggered his wife’s ire. (Source undisclosed for obvious reasons).

So is this a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” We dare Andy Bautista to come back to the Philippines and prove his alleged “innocence.”

This is not a domestic fight between a husband and wife.  This is a plunder case involving more than P1.2 billion of the people’s money—our money. Will we let Andy and his cohorts (who are very much around and flaunting their wealth and power) get away with plunder?

No, a billion times no!!!

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