Poll chief, wife, law firm probed for tax evasion
The Bureau of Internal Revenue has formed a five-member panel to investigate possible tax evasion cases against Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista after his estranged wife accused him of amassing close to P1 billion in ill-gotten wealth, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Wednesday.
Aguirre said the BIR team will investigate possible violations of the National Internal Revenue Code, not only by Bautista, but also by his wife Patricia Paz, law dean Nilo Divina of the Divina law firm, Luzon Development Bank and other parties involved in the case.
In her affidavit, Patricia alleged that her husband had money in banks, condominiums, and interest and shares in companies established overseas that the poll chief allegedly did not declare in his 2016 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth with a total estimated value of almost P1 billion.
Bautista declared a P176.3 million total net worth in his 2016 SALN.
She also alleged that the poll chief had pay slips and checks received from the Divina law firm “as commission for assisting the law firm clients with the Comelec.”
Patricia also claimed that Bautista had 35 passbook accounts at LDB with a total balance of P329,220,962.
In BIR Special Order No. 706-2017, a copy which the Justice Department released Wednesday, Commissioner Caesar Dulay designated Regional Director Glen Geraldino of Revenue Region 8 (Makati) as head of the probe team with Regional Director Manuel Mapoy and Revenue District Officers Petronilo Fernando, Bethsheba Bautista and Isabel Paulino as members.
In a letter, Dulay also sought Aguirre’s assistance in the BIR probe.
“To help in the effective discharge of the team’s investigative authority, kindly furnish it, through Director Geraldino, with any and all affidavits, reports and documents which your office may deem pertinent to the tax investigation,” the BIR chief said.
Aguirre ordered the NBI last week to probe the allegations against the Comelec chairman and build criminal cases that could be pursued if Bautista is removed from his post through impeachment or if he resigns or completes his term.
He directed the NBI to request bank records of accounts under Bautista’s name with the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
Over the weekend, the Justice secretary said the investigation against Bautista has expanded and would cover possible charges of graft.
He revealed that he received several documents indicating possible anomalies in the Presidential Commission on Good Government when Bautista was still chairman during the previous administration.
Bautista on Wednesday said he is ready to face impeachment proceedings and denied reports that he resigned.
“I will face impeachment complaints in order to vindicate myself,” Bautista said, as he repeatedly denied allegations of his estranged wife that he amassed ill-gotten wealth.
“It is not true that I resigned from my post,” he said, adding it was just another smear campaign to create the impression that he is guilty of the accusations hurled by his wife.
The poll chief continued to deny that the hidden-wealth allegations against him and claimed all were half-truths.
“She (Patricia) demanded P620 million and this is a form of extortion, blackmail,” he said.
But House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Bautista’s wife was the “perfect complainant” for an impeachment complaint against the poll chief because she claimed she had personal knowledge of his wrongdoing.
At the same time, Alvarez said he believes Bautista should resign if only to save the integrity and credibility of the poll body.
“If the wife of Bautista would like to file an impeachment complaint against him, she can do it and have it filed at the House of Representatives, and we have to process it,” Alvarez said.
He added that if a complaint is filed, the lawmakers would not delve into personal issues or the Bautista’s marital problems.
“The issue involves marital spat. And I do not think the House will entertain questions on that matter. But the allegations of corruption, such as the issue on Smartmatic, will likely be the subject matter,” Alvarez said.
Bautista’s wife, Patricia Paz, said she has proof that her husband had received commissions from Smartmatic through Divina law firm, whose managing partner Nilo Divina is said to be a close friend of the Comelec chairman.
Alvarez also said Bautista should consider quitting his post. “I think Chairman Bautista should consider that seriously. Because when you head that agency handling national and local elections, that has to be credible. But once its integrity and credibility is questioned or gets tainted, I think that is a problem,” Alvarez said.
Patricia Paz claimed her husband received P500,000 in referral fees from automated elections technology provider Smartmatic Corp., which has been hounded by controversy over alleged manipulation of election results.