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Duterte ‘hands off’ on Comelec chief's ‘unexplained wealth’ woes

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he refuses to be involved in the corruption case of Commission on Elections chief Andres Bautista. AP/Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he refuses to be involved in allegations of unexplained wealth hurled against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, saying it is out of his jurisdiction.

“Hands off ako diyan,” he told reporters during at a press briefing at the Malacañan after a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

On Sunday, Bautista's estranged wife Patricia told several media outfits that her husband amassed about P1 billion in unexplained wealth. Government officials are required by law to disclose their financial details in their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. 

Her allegations came after she and Andres met with Duterte on August 1.

Duterte confirmed that he did meet with the Bautistas and said he merely gave them advice. He said he asked the poll chief to talk to his wife since her allegations are “serious.”

“I was not meddling, I asked him to fix his quarrel with the wife,” Duterte said.

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The president also said Mrs. Bautista told him about her plan to file a case against the poll chief. He said he was only informed because “the integrity of the entire elections may be put into issue.”

He said he agreed to the meeting because it is his job as president "to listen to everybody."

'There will always be a case filed'

Asked if he fears that the potential case may affect the credibility of the May 2016 elections, Duterte shrugged off the comment.

“Ah, bahala na. Tapos na ako nag-oath diyan. Tapos na ako ma-proclaim,” he said.

Duterte also refused to comment on Chairman Bautista's issues as he does not want to create more controversy by speaking about a possible impeachment case.

“There will always be a case filed,” Duterte said, either from the Office of the Ombudsman or through Congress.

“I do not want to preempt, I have no  jurisdiction over the case, so I might as well shut up. Hindi naman ako Congress,” Duterte said.

Earlier, the Comelec chairman, who denied the corruption allegations, said he is willing to answer his estranged wife’s allegations in the proper forum. He also said he is ready to face a possible impeachment case.

As a member of a Constitutional commission, Bautista has a fixed term and may only be removed by impeachment.

Earlier Monday, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella stressed that President Duterte does not condone any form of corruption.

“The whole matter has to be fully investigated. At this stage, that’s all we can say,” Abella said in a press briefing.

Asked if Malacañang would support an impeachment bid against Bautista in case there is evidence showing that he has a case to answer, Abella said: “The president’s stand is pretty clear regarding this matter that he will not tolerate corruption even a whiff of it.”

He said he could not speculate on whether the allegations against Bautista constitute an impeachable offense and declined to comment on the poll chief’s claim that the accusations against him are politically motivated.

The Justice Department has already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the alleged misdeclaration in Bautista's SALN and his alleged violation of the anti-money laundering law. Some members of  Congress have also filed resolutions to conduct a probe into the issue in both chambers. — with a report by Alexis Romero

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