By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
The speculation of a rigged 2016 elections that catapulted President Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency has been raised with the allegations of corruption Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista.
Part of his unexplained wealth of almost PHP 1 billion was supposedly acquired while supervising the 2016 polls.
Sen. Grace Poe, who placed second in that race, said it is the inescapable conclusion that the corruption allegations cast doubt on the outcome of closely contested 2016 presidential elections.
Bautista’s wife, Patricia, claimed publicly that she discovered bank and real property documents and several passbooks in her husband’s name that were not included in his 2016 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. The Comelec chief and his wife turned out to be estranged since 2013 but still together.
Poe said she had “nothing personal” against Bautista and thinks she was right in quickly conceding after the 2016 polls to then rival Duterte, whose election victory appears to be indisputable.
The Senator believes the revelation could impact or cast doubt on the results not only of the presidential race but also some of the closely contested races in the May 9, 2016 polls.
Poe said the huge sums found in the passbook cited by Bautista’s wife cannot be ignored, and must be taken alongside such basic details as Bautista’s salary as Comelec chairman.
She noted that the sheer pattern in the sums deposited — always below PHP500,000 or the threshold set by law before a transaction flags the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
To Poe, the revelations made by Bautista’s estranged wife Patricia — that he allegedly amassed ill-gotten wealth as poll body chief — cannot be simply dismissed as a marital spat.
The lady senator said serious allegations were made, acts that are tantamount to plunder if true. Poe believed even the Senate could conduct its own investigation even before any party moves to file an impeachment complaint against Bautista. For this reason, Poe said she supports the resolution filed by Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III to investigate the case, as a potential plunder case is involved.
Under the Constitution, the Comelec chairman may only be ousted by an impeachment in a trial conducted at the Senate.
Poe said she was not questioning the credibility of the bank involved (Luzon Development Bank) but found it strange that someone with such huge sums of money would place an account with a relatively small bank.
She said in case an impeachment case was indeed filed eventually against Bautista and the senators must sit as judges, this should not prevent the Senate from doing its own inquiry now in order to ferret out important information.
She recalled that during the time of President Joseph Estrada, Senate hearings were held on the allegations of graft against him, even before an impeachment case was filed in the House of Representatives.
On the part of the Comelec chief, Bautista said allegations of his supposedly unexplained wealth just meant to undermine the integrity of the 2016 national elections that he supervised, suggesting that his estranged wife was being used by losers in that election.
Bautista also accused his estranged wife of attempting to extort money from him and having an affair. He said the claims may have been politically motivated, given that his wife supposedly met with several political personalities recently.
“Ang binabahiran ay hindi lang ako, ang Comelec, kundi pati ang eleksyon natin noong 2016,” Bautista said at a press conference. Bautista, citing local and international watchdogs, insisted that the polls were the “cleanest and the best managed in Philippine election history.”
The accusation by the wife came just days after she and Bautista met with President Rodrigo Duterte, whom the poll chief said gave them marital advice.