BIR joins probe into Comelec chief’s alleged undeclared wealth

MANILA-- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Sunday said that Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will be joining the ongoing probe on Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista's alleged undeclared wealth.

"The BIR wants to partner with us in this investigation. We need to see if there are tax liabilities based on the affidavit and documents we have gathered," said Aguirre, who met with BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay on Sunday as they discussed the parameters of the investigation and sharing of documents and findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Aguirre said the BIR chief will issue a letter of authority to Bautista and others mentioned in Patricia's affidavit.

The DoJ Secretary said that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has been informed about the letter.

In her affidavit, Patricia Paz said she has discovered a number of assets that were not listed in his SALN.

She said she was disclosing certain information and documents that would show that Andy (Bautista's nickname) might have had, or currently has, misdealing and corrupt practices while in government service.

The Comelec chief already denied the allegation, stressing it could be a part of extortion by his estranged wife, who he revealed has asked for a PHP 620-million settlement.

Bautista declared a net worth of PHP176.3 million in his SALN.

Aguirre also tasked NBI to coordinate with Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in probing since it has a memorandum of agreement with the former and considering that Bautista's wife, Patricia Paz, has already presented documents to the NBI, including alleged records on numerous bank accounts of his husband.

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 where 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."

In justifying the investigation, Aguirre said the marital spat is unfortunate "but the government has to protect the public interest."

"There is an allegation here of illegally acquired wealth and we have to know if it is true," he said.

Aguirre also said that the PCGG conduct its own investigation into Bautista's ill gotten wealth.

Aguirre said that he met with acting PCGG chair Reynaldo Munsayac and two other commissioners Rey Bulay and John Agbayani who provided them with documents on possible anomalies.

When asked what the documents are about, he said cases of possible ghost employees, travel violations not in accordance with administrative procedure [but] we are still in the initial stage.

The PCGG is also conducting an investigation on possible violation during the term of Bautista as PCGG chair. I was talking to the three commissioners Reynaldo Munsayac, Rey Bulay, John Agbayani, nagbigay ng document but we are still studying it. So siguro by next week may report on that, Aguirre told reporters in a chance interview on Friday.

Aguirre said they will not ask Bautista to issue a waiver allowing the examination of his accounts, it will be easier for the investigators if he will provide one.

Under the Bank Secrecy Law, all deposits with banks or banking institutions in the country are considered absolutely confidential in nature and may not be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office, except upon written permission of the depositor, or in cases of impeachment, or upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials, or in cases where the money deposited or invested is the subject matter of the litigation.

It is up to him [Bautista] to issue a waiver or not. If he will, well and good, Aguirre said.

Bautista has filed several charges grave coercion, qualified theft, robbery, against his estranged wife in connection with the latter's accusation that he has unexplained wealth amounting to close to PHP1 billion.

The poll body chief noted that charges have been filed against Patricia Bautista at the Taguig City Prosecutor's Office.

Source: Philippine News Agency