In the end, the marital problems of Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista are really just tabloid fodder, of interest only to voyeurs who delight in schadenfreude. What’s of true importance is the question of whether or not Bautista enriched himself while head of the government’s election agency.
Of course, Bautista tells anyone who will listen that his wife Patricia had been “extorting” money from him, in part because she has to pay for the upkeep of her own new partner. But that is just a side issue; what needs to be uncovered is if Bautista sold his position in order, as his estranged wife says, to amass more than P1 billion in ill-gotten wealth.
With this in mind, I decided to look into the small, Laguna-based bank that Tish Bautista claims had been used by the Comelec chairman to hide the bulk of the stash. According to her affidavit, submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation, her husband put in upwards of P300 million in Luzon Development Bank that was not reflected in his official Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, apart from other pricey real estate here and abroad that he kept a secret from his own wife.
Bautista’s SALN is of supreme importance because, as an impeachable official, he must recall that the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona was convicted, removed from office and died a broken man because he was found guilty of not declaring all of his wealth.
Why would Bautista put so much money in LDB, when common sense would dictate that he should be keeping in it bigger banks that are more stable and secure? And why would Bautista be regularly depositing money in increments of P400,000 in the Laguna bank, in an apparent attempt to keep his banking activity under the radar of nosy agencies like the Anti-Money Laundering Council?
Bautista, in various interviews, has explained that the money in LDB is not solely his but that of his parents and siblings, especially those who are abroad and who are building up “nest eggs” for when they retire and return to the Philippines. (This excuse certainly does not free Bautista of liability; in fact, it raises questions of logic because Bautista’s relatives have apparently been depositing undeclared money in his name while he was in government, when nearly all officials even divest their holdings before joining the civil service, in order to keep them out of the sight of state auditors.)
Besides, according to Bautista, he keeps so much money in LDB because he knows the owners – the Limcaoco family – and trusts them. One of his brothers, he said, was classmates in the Ateneo with banker Jose Teodoro “TG” Katigbak Limcaoco, one of the children of the bank’s founders, who also founded the Lica Group, the company that controls the diversified businesses owned by the same family.
But is that really all there is to it? My investigations say otherwise.
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According to its website (ldb.ph), LDB was founded by a group of businessmen led by Rene H. Limcaoco as Laguna Development Bank with a paid-up capital of P1 million in 1961. In 1975, after deciding to expand outside the province, the owners renamed it Luzon Development Bank.
Lica Group, the holding company, is based in Manila but has a “presence throughout the country. [its] core businesses are in Automotive, Real Estate and Hospitality, Financial Services and Office Systems,” according to Lica’s separate website (licagroup.com). The family business owns the Olympia Tower office building in Makati, the Rapide chain of car-repair shops, Old Swiss Inn restaurant, car dealerships in Alabang and Carmona, Cavite and Checkpoint Mall in Calamba, Laguna.
The TG Limcaoco identified by Bautista is chief finance officer, managing director and head of finance of Ayala Corp., according to Bloomberg. But the Ateneo classmate, close friend of Bautista and member of the same landed Laguna-based Katigbak-Limcaco clan is Rene “Timmy” K. Limcaoco; if that name sounds familiar to you, it should.
Timmy Limcaoco was one of the undersecretaries appointed by Mar Roxas when he assumed the post of transportation secretary early in the Aquino administration. Limcaoco was kept on by Roxas’ infamous replacement, Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, when the latter replaced Mar, who moved to the Interior department with the death of Jesse Robredo.
Limcaoco, the transportation undersecretary for planning, has been charged with graft together with Abaya and other officials in connection with two of the most egregious deals of the DoTC—the Inekon scandal exposed by former Czech Republic Ambassador Josef Rychtar and the alleged anomalous awarding of the multi-billion-peso contract to purchase new license plates for motor vehicles by the Land Transportation Office.
Now why would Bautista deny any links to Timmy Limcaoco, his bosom buddy in Ateneo High School 4-A and younger brother of TG? Is the money in the Limcaocos’ bank in Bautista’s name even his, really, or someone else’s?
I guess, when the various investigations of Bautista start, all of us will get to know more about how rich the Comelec boss has become. And if he will be forced to give up money that is not his—or even his relatives’, either.