WAIT ANOTHER YEAR FOR TRUTH? | Word that House Justice panel will dismiss case vs Comelec chief worries wife, lawyer

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Patricia Bautista, flanked by her lawyer Lorna Kapunan and Rep. Harry Roque, speaks to reporters Tuesday. INTERAKSYON SCREEN CAPTURE

MANILA – On the eve of a Justice Committee meeting where word has it that the impeachment complaint against Commission on Elections chairman Andres Bautista will be dismissed on a technicality, his estranged wife appeared at a press conference with her lawyer and one of the three congressmen-endorsers of the complaint in an apparent bid to shore up the chances of it surviving.

Lorna Kapunan, the legal counsel of Patricia Paz-Bautista, said at the briefing organized by the office of Rep. Harry Roque that they were very concerned because they heard that the Justice Committee was inclined to view the impeachment complaint as dismissible.

But, Kapunan said, there were two charges in the complaint which Patricia was endorsing fully because it was based on her affidavit.

According to Kapunan, Patricia was attesting to the truth of all the allegations in her personal affidavit, on which the charges were founded: the charge of where Andres only disclosed P176 million in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), where in her affidavit she said she had personal knowledge of at least P1.2 billion in undeclared assets, and that she had not signed any SALN submitted by Andres, except for a SALN “when he started as Comelec”. She would also attest to the referral fees “being paid to Divina Law”.

Roque argued that in the rules of the House of Representatives, insufficiency in form could be rectified even if an impeachment complaint had already been initiated.

He said he endorsed the complaint of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) “because it is of transcendental importance,” one that involved an alleged breach of the Salonga Law, requiring public officials to file a truthful SALN, and the admission of Andres that he accepted referral fees from Divina Law.

The law firm had done certain services for Smartmatic, COMELEC’s main supplier since it shifted to automated elections.

Affidavit given to NBI

For her part, Patricia said: “I stand by the statements contained in my sworn affidavit in the NBI regarding Chairman Bautista. His case is now in the hands of the Justice Committee in Congress. My role as private citizen is to simply speak the truth and show the evidence at hand. Let us allow the investigation to take its course, unimpeded by any attempts to whitewash the truth.”

Kapunan claimed that, “from our own various sources,” apart from anomalies committed in COMELEC, there are also anomalies committed in the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) when Andres was chairman. Meaning, funds for Martial Law victims were allegedly “misused or misappropriated” by Andres.

Kapunan said they would present evidence in the impeachment court that the mother of Patricia, Andres, Smartmatic, and Divina Law, “are all in complicity”.

Asked whether she would testify in the impeachment court, Patricia replied, “Absolutely.”

Kapunan pointed out that “Chairman Andy Bautista himself has said that he is willing to answer all the allegations against him in the proper venue.” Therefore if he himself was looking for a proper venue, “this is the proper venue, dito siya magpakita ng ebidensya [this is where he should present evidence].”

Outside allegations that his family was suffering, the COMELEC chief had not, added Kapunan, said anything about the P1.2 billion. Nor had he presented any evidence at all. “This is now the opportunity for the Committee on Justice, and for the only institution that can really ferret out the truth and find out about an impeachable offense, this is the opportunity to do so. We cannot dismiss it on a simple technicality because you, myself, Patricia, the congressman will never know the truth until one year from now, pag na-dismiss po ito [if this is dismissed].”

Kapunan added, “We will have to wait for one more year, in September of next year, until we can file another impeachment complaint.”

Meanwhile, she said, the barangay elections would push through and there would be an opportunity “to corrupt the whole system”.

In an apparent bid to counter arguments that the complaint could not be entertained because Patricia was not the complainant and had no standing in the process, Kapunan said that the truth of the statements would be verified by the Patricia, who executed the affidavit, and the authenticity of the documents would be attested to by the National Bureau of Investigation.

If the complaint was dismissed on a technicality, however, Kapunan said, “That will never come to light. You will never know the truth of this unexplained wealth if it dies on Round One. Kumbaga sa boxing fight, na-knock out na kami, round one pa lang. ‘Wag naman sana [If this were boxing, we’d be knocked out right on Round 1. Please, don’t let that happen].” – With reporting by Tricia Aquino, InterAksyon