FIRST, before anything else, Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista must resign. Common decency demands it.
Regardless of how we learned it, we now know that the elections commissioner had much more money than he declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth . In 2016, he declared a net worth of P176.3 million, with real properties totaling P158.5 million and personal property worth 83.3 million as against liabilities of P65.5 million.
But his estranged wife—with many of his bank books and documents in her possession—this week said Bautista did not include several bank accounts and condominium units in his SALN, and that he had amassed hundreds of millions of pesos in ill-gotten wealth.
Bautista has sought to discredit his wife, saying she tried to extort money from him, that she threatened him with dire consequences if he did not agree to her terms, that she made up the allegations against him, that she was being used for political reasons, and that she had taken a lover.
Even assuming that all this were true, none of it would change the fact the tale told by the bank books that have now been turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation. From those documents alone, we can see that Bautista had lied about his wealth in his SALN—an offense that was used by the previous administration to impeach and ultimately oust and destroy a chief justice of the Supreme Court. It doesn’t matter now that Bautista claims that some of the money was not his, and merely put under his name by family members who asked him to manage their nest egg. If the accounts were in his name, he should have declared them.
This doesn’t even begin to address the other issue that will hound Bautista. How did he amass the kind of wealth that his estranged wife revealed? Did he compromise the integrity of the 2016 elections, for example, as some parties have suggested? Why were most of his transactions just under the amount that would have invited the unwanted attention of the Anti-Money Laundering Council?
Given Bautista’s tarnished record at the Comelec—by his negligence, he allowed the biggest data beach in Philippine history that left millions of registered voters at risk—even the whiff of further wrongdoing would be reason enough for the chairman to go. The stench left by his wife’s revelations makes it imperative for Bautista to step down as Comelec chairman.
If Bautista is too thick to leave on his own, Congress must show him the door by initiating impeachment proceedings against him. He no longer deserves our trust.