NBI, AMLC to probe Comelec chair’s ‘undeclared wealth’

MANILA� Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Wednesday the tasked National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to coordinate with Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in probing Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista’s alleged undeclared wealth worth PHP1 billion.

Aguirre said he is expecting the AMLC to be more cooperative in the NBI probe 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.

I believe so because it’s the NBI who has a memorandum of agreement with the AMLC, not the DOJ. So the NBI will be making the request,’ Aguirre told reporters in chance interview in DOJ.

The DOJ Chief also tasked the NBI to conduct an investigation on possible anomalies at the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) as part of its probe on the matter.

“I made a DO (Department Order) for them (NBI) to investigate matters of unexplained wealth, the matter of possible violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act and possible anomalies at the PCGG,” Aguirre told reporters, stressing that he is currently talking to three of its commissioners.

He, however refused to give further details of the meeting.

Bautista served as PCGG head in 2010 before being appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III as Comelec Chairman in 2015.

Aguirre said Patricia Paz’s allegation stating that his husband has ill-gotten wealth cannot be considered as a private matter.

This is not a private relationship matter. It concerns the money of the people of the Philippines. Whether they settle, I thing the proceedings will continue either in the impeachment court or ordinary criminal proceedings, Aguirre stressed.

Aguirre also bared that probers would look into possible cases of money laundering and violations of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) if evidence would be gathered against the poll chief.

“Wherever evidence would lead us, then that’s it. There’s an allegation about receiving commission so that could fall under R.A. 3019,” he explained.

“There are plenty of sources to get evidence. We have the bank records, records of offices like PCGG (Presidential Commission on Good Government),” he added.

Aguirre noted that any results of the investigation being conducted by the NBI on the alleged undeclared assets of Bautista may be used as evidence in any impeachment or criminal proceeding against him.

Aguirre reiterated that they are not prohibited from proceeding with the investigation even if Bautista is an impeachable official.

The immunity of the impeachable officers is the filing but you are not prohibited from investigating so in the event that this investigation will be able to some evidence then later on, the evidence gathered during this investigation could be presented as an evidence during the impeachment trial, Aguirre told reporters.

He also said that evidence can also be used in any criminal case that might be filed against Bautista later or even if he is acquitted in an impeachment proceedings.

Bautista, he stressed, could still face possible criminal cases even if he is acquitted in an impeachment trial.

If he is acquitted in the impeachment trial, there are aspects that may not have been possibly covered by the impeachment trial that he could be investigated and a complaint could be filed despite an acquittal in the impeachment trial. We could wait for the expiration of his term (if he is acquitted and remains an impeachable official) before the appropriate criminal cases are filed, Aguirre further explained.

The DOJ Chief earlier issued DO 517 giving the NBI authority to investigate and do a case build-up on the allegations of Bautista’s estranged wife Patricia Paz that her husband’s assets is worth PHP1-billion contrary to what is indicated in his statement of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN).

Aguirre directed NBI Director Dante Gierran to conduct a probe and case build-up based on the allegations of Bautista’s wife.

“The NBI, through its Director, is hereby directed and granted authority to conduct investigation and case build-up over the alleged failure to disclose pertinent information required in the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of Chairperson Andres D. Bautista contained in the affidavit of Mrs. Patricia Paz Bautista including possible determination of violation of Anti-Money Laundering Law and other related laws,” read the order signed by Aguirre.

Aguirre required the NBI to submit a monthly report on any updates of its investigation.

The allegation against Bautista came after his wife met with President Duterte and executed an affidavit, which was then forwarded to the NBI.

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 PHP620-million settlement.

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

Source: Philippine News Agency