Chiz seeks Senate arrest of ex-Comelec chief Bautista

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Comelec chairman Andres Bautista at a media forum where he confirmed his decision to resign by yearend. (File photo by JV Arcena, News5)

MANILA – Senator Chiz Escudero has asked the Senate to issue a warrant for the arrest of former Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista after declaring him in contempt for refusing to attend the committee hearing in relation to possible violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

According to Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, the former poll chief has clearly shown his attempt to stifle the proceedings.

“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. 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,” the senator said.

The committee issued a subpoena to Bautista last week. The former polls chief wrote to the committee saying he did not receive any invitation because he had been out of the country since November 21 of last year.

“I understand from news reports that a subpoena has been issued because of my non-appearance in the hearing. In this regard, I respectfully ask that the subpoena be recalled since I never received the invitation” part of his letter stated.

Bautista also told the committee that he “will be pleased to answer in writing any appropriate questions that the Honorable Committee may have regarding the referenced topic.”

“That letter for me is a ruse. There is no good faith in it. He asked for the subpoena to be recalled and to instead answer in writing. 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,” Escudero 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 Anti-Money Laundering Law and thus begged to be excluded from the committee hearing.

“If they don’t want to attend, they don’t want to go public, then they should execute a waiver. We can’t compel them to execute a waiver, but we can compel their attendance to the hearing. They can tell the committee that they will not issue a waiver, they can invoke whatever rights they have under the laws and we will respect that. But they cannot do that through letters alone and hide behind it,” Escudero said.

“I pose this challenge to Chairman Bautista: If he’s not hiding anything, he need not fear. If he can’t personally attend, he can talk to his siblings for all of them to execute a waiver and we will continue the proceedings without them,” the senator said.