BIR joins probe into Comelec chief’s alleged undeclared wealth

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Andres Bautista
Comelec chairman Andres Bautista. File Photo by EDD GUMBAN, Philstar

MANILA – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will join the ongoing probe on Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista’s alleged undeclared wealth, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Sunday.

“The BIR wants to partner with us in this investigation. We need to see if there are tax liabilities based on the affidavit and documents we have gathered,” said Aguirre, who met with BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay on Sunday as they discussed the parameters of the investigation and sharing of documents and findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Aguirre said the BIR chief will issue a letter of authority to Bautista and others mentioned in Patricia’s affidavit.

The DoJ chief said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has been informed about the letter.

In her affidavit, Patricia Paz Bautista said she had discovered a number of assets that were not listed in his SALN.
She said she was disclosing “certain information and documents that would show that Andy (Bautista’s nickname) might have had, or currently has, misdealing and corrupt practices while in government service.”

The Comelec chief has denied the allegation, stressing it could be a part of an extortion by his estranged wife, who he said had demanded a P620-million settlement.

Bautista declared a net worth of P176.3 million in his SALN.

AMLC, too

Aguirre also tasked NBI to coordinate with Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in probing since it has a memorandum of agreement with the former and considering that Bautista’s wife, Patricia Paz, has already presented documents to the NBI, including alleged records on numerous bank accounts of his husband.

The NBI, through its Anti-Fraud Division, has begun started its investigation.

A progress report submitted to Aguirre said the NBI is coordinating with various agencies including the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to examine over 30 bank accounts cited by Bautista’s wife.

The NBI also reached out to the Presidential Commission on Good Government which Bautista had chaired from 2010 to 2015.

The NBI coordinated as well with the Office of the Ombudsman for Bautista’s SALN; and with these agencies: the Land Registration Authority (LRA), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) and various property developers.

In justifying the investigation, Aguirre said the marital spat is unfortunate “but the government has to protect the public interest.”

“There is an allegation here of illegally acquired wealth and we have to know if it is true,” he said.

Aguirre said earlier the PCGG is conducting its own investigation into Bautista’s ill gotten wealth.

Aguirre met with acting PCGG chair Reynaldo Munsayac and commissioners Rey Bulay and John Agbayani. who provided them with documents on possible anomalies.

When asked what the documents are about, he said “cases of possible ghost employees, travel violations not in accordance with administrative procedure [but] we are still in the initial stage.

Aguirre said they will not ask Bautista to issue a waiver allowing the examination of his accounts, but it will be easier for the investigators if he will provide one.

Under the Bank Secrecy Law, all deposits with banks or banking institutions in the country are considered absolutely confidential in nature and may not be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office, except upon written permission of the depositor, or in cases of impeachment, or upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials, or in cases where the money deposited or invested is the subject matter of the litigation.

“It is up to him [Bautista] to issue a waiver or not. If he will, well and good,” Aguirre said.
Bautista has filed charges of grave coercion, qualified theft and robbery against Patricia at the Taguig City Prosecutor’s Office.