‘US authorities secure documents vs Bautista’

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
�US authorities secure documents vs Bautista�
George Erwin Garcia Chairman, COMELEC.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Representatives of the United States Justice Department and Homeland Security arrived in the Philippines three weeks ago to acquire documents for the prosecution of former poll chief Andres Bautista, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George Garcia disclosed yesterday.

US authorities interviewed some poll officials and secured copies of procurement papers and bidding and anti-graft laws, Garcia recalled during the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel forum.

Several Comelec directors involved in the procurement and processing of payments during Bautista’s time were also asked about what transpired at that time, he added.

Bautista is facing money laundering charges filed before the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida in September 2023, related to an alleged bribery scheme involving vote-counting machines.

Garcia declined to divulge detailed information on the case, stressing that Bautista is entitled to presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt by the US court.

The poll body will receive an update on the status of the case or if Bautista is already in the custody of US authorities, he said.

“I’m going to ask US authorities on what is the status of the former chairman,” Garcia said when asked if Bautista is already in the custody of US authorities.

Information related to Bautista’s case shall form part of the petition for the reversal of a recent Supreme Court ruling favoring technology provider Smartmatic International, he noted.

“It is now public, officially admitted in court, we will definitely include that in the event that we file the motion for reconsideration,” Garcia said.

“That’s the reason why I don’t want to discuss since it’s still sub judice and surely we will file an MR because of this latest development,” he added.

The Commission en banc’s decision to disqualify Smartmatic from the bidding process was based on confirmed information coming from the US Justice Department, he said.

Comelec could not reveal the information then due to the mutual legal defense treaty, he added, and they also did not want to compromise US authorities’ investigation.

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