BIR forms probe team on Comelec head’s ‘undeclared wealth’

MANILA � The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has formed a team in charge of probing Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista and his relatives for possible tax evasion, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Wednesday.

The move comes amid allegations of Bautista's estranged wife Patricia Paz stating that the poll body chief has undeclared wealth worth PHP1 billion.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said that BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay issued Revenue Special Order. No. 706-217 which ordered the formation of a team who will investigate possible violations of the National Internal Revenue Code by Bautista, her wife Patricia Paz, Atty. Nilo Divina and his Divine law firm, Luzon Development Bank (LDB) "and other related parties."

Dulay designated Regional Director Glen Geraldino of Revenue Region 8 as head of the probe team with Regional Director Manuel Mapoy and Revenue District Officers Petronilo Fernando, Bethsheba Bautista and Isabel Paulino as members.

Aguirre met Dulay last Sunday discussed the parameters of the investigation and sharing of documents and findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

In a letter, Dulay also sought Aguirre's assistance in the BIR probe.

"To help in the effective discharge of the team's investigative authority, kindly furnish it, through Director Geraldino, with any and all affidavits, reports and documents which your office may deem pertinent to the tax investigation," the BIR chief asked.

Patricia Paz has already presented documents to the NBI, including alleged records on numerous bank accounts of his husband.

She claimed in her affidavit submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that her husband, who was appointed as Comelec chairman in May 2015 by then President Aquino, had money in banks, condominiums, and interest and shares in companies established overseas that the poll chief allegedly did not declare in his 2016 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) with a total estimated value of almost P1 billion.

Last week, the DOJ ordered the NBI to probe the allegations against the Comelec chair and build criminal cases that could be pursued if Bautista is removed from his post via impeachment process or once he resigns or completes his term.

He has directed the NBI to request bank records of accounts under Bautista's name with the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The NBI, through its Anti-Fraud Division, already started with its investigation.

Based on the progress report submitted to Aguirre, the NBI already coordinated with various agencies including the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to examine the more than 30 bank accounts mentioned by Bautista's estranged wife Patricia.

"The conduct of parallel money laundering investigation was likewise requested from AMLC," the NBI report stated.

The NBI likewise coordinated with the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) which Bautista previously headed from 2010 to 2015.

The NBI also coordinated with the Office of the Ombudsman for Bautista's SALN. They also coordinated with the Land Registration Authority (LRA), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) and various property developers.In justifying the investigation, Aguirre said the marital spat is unfortunate "but the government has to protect the public interest."

Aguirre also bared that the investigation against Bautista has expanded and would cover possible charges of graft, stressing that he received several documents indicating possible anomalies in the PCGG.

Bautista has denied the allegations.

Source: Philippine News Agency