Monday , June 18, 2018

Seares: Bautista case: wife vs. husband

WHAT immediately seizes public interest in the unexplained wealth story about Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista is the battle between husband and wife: Patricia Paz coming out and presenting bank books, realty titles and other documents to show that Andres had amassed almost P1 billion in unexplained wealth.

This is no ordinary story of a broken marriage. It’s about the wife telling the public that her husband, a high public official, had been piling up money from his government jobs.

Sensitive agencies

The husband is the chief (since 2015) of Comelec, which presides over the country’s elections, and is former chairman (from 2010) of PCGG, the agency that tried to recover plundered wealth of dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and cronies.

Most of us are looking at the allegations of money theft: how much was “stolen.” The listing of bank passbooks, certificates of deposit, condo and other realty documents, and money stashed abroad would stun many of us not used to specifics of a public official’s hidden wealth.

Andres declared a net worth of P176.3 million in his last assets-and-liabilities statement. From Patricia Paz’s disclosures, Andres must have almost P1 billion worth of undeclared wealth. Which he denies and counters with the charge that his wife is extorting money from him.

Love evicted

Love evidently had already fled the family home: since 2013 yet, Andres says, apparently “she’s already in love with someone else.”

The third party -- the other man or the other woman or both -- is still not known. What’s clear is that hostility had evicted marital love. How else to explain the ransacking of Andres’s personal files and publicizing evidence of his “corruption”?

Bautista vs. Bautista

Patricia Paz may be ordered to return all those documents and their use as evidence may be blocked because of breach of privileged communication which the marriage created (Cecilia Zulueta vs. Court of Appeals and Alfredo Martin, GR #10738).

But that wouldn’t stop NBI and the Department of Justice from building up the case on the basis of the wife’s disclosures. The cat is out of the bag. With the strained relations, Patricia Paz may testify in court against Andres in a civil or criminal case -- or in a possible impeachment complaint in Congress.

The nation too

Obscured for now, amid the dizzying figures on alleged ill-gotten wealth, is how much the “plunder” had affected operations of Comelec and PCGG. How much of decisions on election complaints and handling of wealth recovery cases were adversely influenced by corruption?

The disclosure by Patricia Paz of a “checks and commissions” list for Andres and members of his family from a law firm that handles Comelec lawsuits and companies under PCGG’s oversight indicates damage on the two vital government agencies.

This is one domestic turbulence that shakes not only the Bautista household but the nation as well.