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Impeach complaint filed vs Bautista

Marcos loyalist lawyer Oliver Lozano has filed an impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust while serving in his previous post as head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and as current Comelec chief. The STAR/Perseus Echiminada, File

MANILA, Philippines - Marcos loyalist lawyer Oliver Lozano has filed an impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust while serving in his previous post as head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and as current Comelec chief.

However, instead of filing with the secretary general of the House of Representatives, Lozano filed the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, which he claimed to have initial jurisdiction over the complaint.

Lozano said that the impeachment complaints he previously filed at the House were returned to him because no congressman endorsed them.

“It’s up to the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate and refer the impeachment case to the House of Representatives,” Lozano told The STAR.

Lozano said he filed the complaint after Bautista’s wife Patricia recently came out and claimed that the Comelec chief was involved in alleged irregularities when he was then PCGG chief and in his current position as poll body head.

He said the grounds for impeachment he filed against Bautista are similar to the complaints filed against the late former chief justice Renato Corona involving huge sums of money that were not declared in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN).

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He said there is a striking similarity with the case of Corona and the allegations hurled against Bautista by his wife involving multiple banks accounts.

Lozano also called on Bautista to resign before the ombudsman or other government agencies like the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that is now conducting its own probe, recommend the filing of charges against him.

“For delicadeza I am urging chairman Bautista to resign now,” he said.

Bautista had filed grave coercion, qualified theft, robbery and extortion charges before the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday against his wife Patricia, who had earlier accused him of having ill-gotten wealth close to P1 billion. 

He challenged his wife to also go to court, saying, “I don’t think it is fair to drag private people into this whole thing.”

Bautista said that 10 months ago, Patricia ransacked his locked cabinets and stole bankbooks, gift certificates, financial statements and other documents that were used to fabricate documents against him. 

Among the pieces of evidence Patricia exposed were Bautista’s alleged 35 passbooks from Luzon Development Bank totaling P329.2 million, an RCBC dollar account with $12,778 (P640,000), an RCBC peso account with P257,931 in cash; 

an HSBC account with HK$948,358 (P6.1 million) in deposits, and one condo unit each in Bonifacio Global City’s High Street in Taguig City, and another one located abroad – in San Francisco, California. 

The Comelec chief also has investments abroad, among them Bauman Enterprises Ltd in British Virgin Islands in September 2010, a trustee company that Bautista set up with the Bank of Singapore.  

Another is Mantova International Ltd. that was established in Brunei in April 2011 while the last is Mega Achieve Inc. established in Anguilla, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean in July 2014.  

Patricia claimed that there were ghost employees at the PCGG identified as Howie Vitas and Joey Perry, when Bautista was chairman.

She also alleged that her husband received commissions from a law firm for supposedly recommending clients, including two sequestered companies of the PCGG.

Bautista denied that Vitas and Perry were ghost employees, saying they were hired as consultants of the commission. He also claimed that there was nothing illegal with accepting fees from the law firm.

PCGG probe

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II yesterday said that aside from the NBI, the PCGG is also conducting a separate probe into possible violations committed by Bautista when he was still the head of the good government commission. 

Aguirre said he spoke with PCGG acting chairman Reynaldo Munsayac and commissioners Rey Bulay and John Agbayani, who told him that they are also checking if Bautista had engaged in illegal activities when he was the commission chairman from Sept. 13, 2010 until April 27, 2015.

He explained that the PCGG is also authorized to conduct its own probe. 

The PCGG also reportedly handed over documents related to issues on the possible violation of anti-graft, possible referral of cases, possible ghost employees and travels not in accordance with administrative procedure that could be used in the NBI’s investigation. 

The NBI is still studying these documents.

“I also directed the NBI to conduct an investigation into possible allegations related to the Anti-Money Laundering Act. You can recall the DOJ has no memorandum of agreement with the Anti-Money Laundering Council. It is only the NBI who could request data and information from AMLC that could be used for possible indictment for violation of the AMLA,” said Aguirre.

He said that they course their request to AMLC through the NBI. 

Aguirre said that they have not asked Bautista if he is willing to issue a waiver to allow the NBI to look into his bank accounts to speed up the investigation process.

But if Bautista would voluntarily allow the NBI, “well and good. We would no longer have a hard time” looking into his bank records, Aguirre added.

The DOJ chief said that they are still in the initial stages of their investigation but believe that both the NBI and the PCGG are well aware that their findings could be used in a possible impeachment case that could be filed against Bautista. 

Lawyer Romulo Macalintal, lead counsel for Vice President Leni Robredo, claimed yesterday that some people are using the personal and family feud between Bautista and estranged wife Patricia to cast doubt on the credibility of the 2016 national elections.

He said there is no legal nor factual basis to immediately jump to the conclusion that the feud between the Bautistas could cast doubt on the credibility and integrity of the 2016 national and local elections.

Macalintal said that while Patricia presented before the media alleged evidence of hidden or ill-gotten wealth of Bautista, there was no mention of any act committed by the latter that had compromised the results of the elections. 

Patricia did not mention any alleged “commission” or “referral fees” received by Bautista for purposes of cheating or rigging the elections in favor of any candidate.

“There is a big difference between commissions received to favor a bidder and commissions received to cheat the elections,” he added. 

The automated election system (AES) used in the 2016 elections, Macalintal said, was the same system used in the 2010 and 2013 elections wherein all election protests filed were dismissed for failure to prove any discrepancy between the results of the election generated by the PCOS machines and the physical count of ballots. 

“The same is true in the case of the 2016 elections, wherein almost all the election protests involving local candidates did not show any sign of irregularity or tampering of the results,” Macalintal said.

“In a word, Bautista alone, or even the entire officials of the Comelec, cannot rig or manipulate the AES to favor a particular candidate or political party,” he added.

Meanwhile, the League of Election Officers of the Nation (LEON) yesterday came up with a manifesto of support for Bautista. 

The poll officials felt that the attack is not only against Bautista but on the entire Comelec, “pinpointing to what we delivered during the May 2016 elections is tainted.” - With Evelyn Macairan, Pia Lee-Brago, Sheila Crisostomo

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