Senate orders ex-poll chief’s arrest

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Senate orders ex-poll chief�s arrest
Former Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista failed to appear before the committee, which had already issued him a subpoena, for the third time last February 12.

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has ordered the arrest of former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista for repeatedly skipping an inquiry into his alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the committee on banks and financial institutions, said yesterday that Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III signed the order last Wednesday.

The committee is conducting the inquiry to see if there were any violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) when Bautista opened several accounts in the Luzon Development Bank that reportedly contained hundreds of millions of pesos in alleged undeclared wealth.

Escudero sought the arrest order, saying it was evident that Bautista did not want the inquiry to progress with his repeated absences despite several formal invitations sent to all his known addresses.

The order will be served by the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms to Bautista’s three known addresses in the country. 

However, the former poll chief, in a letter to Escudero two weeks ago, said he was in the United States.

Bautista failed to appear before the committee, which had already issued him a subpoena, for the third time last Feb. 12.

“I have requested the Senate to issue a warrant for chairman Bautista so he can be arrested anytime when he arrives in the country. The committee is compelled to do this after his obvious defiance of the Senate orders,” Escudero told reporters after he skipped the last hearing.

“Unless he expunges himself, and the only way he can is if he issues a waiver on bank secrecy together with his siblings who are his co-depositors,” he said. 

Bautista sent a letter addressed to Pimentel and Escudero claiming he has not received the invitations, and asked that he instead answer the questions in writing as he was in the US.

The former poll chief, who is accused of hiding hundreds of millions of pesos in the Luzon Development Bank in violation of several laws, including the AMLA, did not say when when he will be back.

Escudero described Bautista’s letter as a “ruse” and had “no good faith in it.” 

“He is a former chairman of a constitutional commission; he has no legal and formal address here in the country. That is not normal.  At the very least, he should have given us a forwarding address where we can communicate with him but so far he has not done that. That is the very opposite of what he had said in the past that he will squarely face any and all allegations lodged against him in any forum,” the senator said.

Bautista’s siblings, Susan Afan and Martin Bautista, were also invited by the committee but both failed to show up. 

Afan wrote the committee that she could not attend the hearing because of prior commitments and that as a private citizen, she had no knowledge of the AMLA and thus begged to be excluded from the committee hearing. 

Escudero said if Bautista and his siblings do not want to attend, then they should execute waivers to open their bank accounts if they really did not have anything to hide.

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