Ex-Comelec chief denies receiving bribe money

Michael Punongbayan, Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
Ex-Comelec chief denies receiving bribe money
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista yesterday denied allegations that he received a bribe from poll automation company Smartmatic or any other entity.

Bautista issued the statement on X, formerly Twitter, after it was reported that he was charged for money laundering and conspiracy by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

“I am surprised to learn about a complaint filed against me. I have never been contacted by the US Department of Homeland Security about it for comment. But let me be very clear. I did not ask for nor receive any bribe money from Smartmatic or any other entity,” Bautista said.

“Be that as it may, I am ready to respond to the alleged charges at the proper forum and time. The 2016 Philippine National Elections were hailed by various independent national and local election stakeholders as the best managed in our electoral history,” he added.

The former poll chief noted that the Philippine Supreme Court already voted unanimously to dismiss an electoral protest filed by now President Marcos, who questioned the victory of Leni Robredo in the 2016 vice presidential race.

The supposed charges, which news site Rappler attributed to a report from international news service MLex, alleged bribery involving a poll technology company and the 2016 elections in the Philippines.

It was Smartmatic that provided the voting machines used in that elections.

In a statement, the company maintained that it “has adhered to the Philippine Procurement Law and the strict controls that the Philippine Commission on Elections imposes” in every bidding process and procurement procedure.

“Winning a bid in the Philippines is never solely one individual’s preference or decision. Instead, multiple technical evaluations are conducted by committees, ensuring that the bidders comply with all the requirements specified in the Terms of Reference,” it said.

Smartmatic said all of these assessments are presented to a bids and awards committee, which recommends to the Comelec to ultimately decide the successful bidder.

“Dozens of technical, commercial and administrative officials have a say in selecting the provider. Over the years Smartmatic has both won and lost bids In the Philippines. It is important to note that nothing about this investigation has anything to do with election security or integrity,” it added.

Smartmatic said it will cooperate with investigative authorities.

Bautista was previously subject of various complaints, including an impeachment at the House of Representatives. The Senate also issued an arrest warrant against him after he failed to attend a hearing in 2017.

It was reported at the time that he flew to the US, although his present whereabouts have yet to be confirmed by authorities.

The US Department of Homeland Security has yet to confirm the supposed charges filed against Bautista.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, for his part, said he had heard about Bautista’s case. “I would surmise it would involve money laundering. But I have not been given any statement in particular,” he said.

Sought for comment, the United States embassy in Manila said it is aware of news reports about the supposed case filed against the former poll official.

However, the embassy, through spokesperson Kanishka Gangopadhyay, said queries on the matter should be referred to the US Department of Justice.


On the other hand, the current Comelec leadership said the case serves as an “eye-opener” for the poll body, but that they are withholding any judgments.

Chairman George Garcia said the Comelec is interested in the outcome of the case. – Rhodina Villanueva

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