There are a number of things in the Comelec Chairman Andres “Andy” Bautista and Patricia “Tish” Bautista controversy that have made people either gravely disgusted in many ways about lawyers, government officials and marriage; or bizarrely entertained by the thick plot of big money, betrayal, sex, scandal and greed.
One disgusting factor was the manner by which the lawyers of Patricia managed the case. The separate press interviews of Andy and Tish, as well as Tish’s legal adviser and spokesperson, Lorna Kapunan, show that the dispute, which every man on the street now talks about, started as a marital problem between the couple. Since innocent children are involved, every means possible should have been exhausted by the lawyers to protect the couple’s children, aged eight, 13, 14 and 16, from emotional trauma. It was bad enough that their parents were estranged—a condition that usually results in feelings of insecurity, confusion and even depression, in children. Allowing the children’s mother to expose the alleged unexplained wealth of their father, hinting that he may have engaged in corrupt acts, would leave them scarred for life. This move spurred Andy to come out on media too accusing his wife, in turn, of being motivated by greed and exposing her extramarital affair. She was assisted, allegedly, by her lawyers and lover. In other words, the Bautista family’s dirty linen have all been washed for the public to see and for the media to feast on, at the expense of the Bautista children who are now stigmatized. Andy broke down and shed tears as he said his elder children no longer go to school because they are being bullied.
This is sad. Lawyers are expected to be aware that the interest of helpless children affected by a controversy must always be considered. In fact, the Supreme Court has ensured the protection of children from the trauma of family disputes by mandating family courts to keep proceedings completely confidential. Children of separating spouses are kept from testifying, except only in extreme cases such as, when a parent commits a crime against a child or the children themselves.
There was one other eyebrow raiser in this saga. In the press conference of Tisha she categorically stated that she was doing the expose because she suspected that her husband was involved in illegal activities that could explain his having amassed more than one billion pesos and that she did not want to be accused of being in complicity with him as they were still living in the same house. Yet, in a television interview of her legal adviser and spokesperson, Kapunan, she said that Tisha is asking for P620 million from Andy because that was half of the money and assets being kept by Andy. Therefore, Kapunan concluded, all the money and assets in his name are conjugal. But did not Tisha just say in so many words that this was dirty money and she did not want to be accused of abetting the illegal activities of Andy?
We have courts of law and our legal processes are in place. Tisha Bautista and her lawyers have started the process by getting the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the source of funds in the accounts of Comelec Chairman Andy Bautista. If he is found to have committed an offense that may be a ground for impeachment then the ax should be made to fall where it may. Thereafter, he can still be made answerable for his offenses, if proven. And, if Tisha has valid grounds to file for the declaration of nullity of her marriage, she could take that action too. The media is not the proper forum for legal actions. It is admittedly a good vehicle for forming public opinions. Yet, it is a double-edged sword as the public’s intelligence cannot be underestimated. Using the media could backfire depending on the reputation and credibility of the players.
The story of betrayal, sex, scandal and greed surrounding the Bautista controversy has all but served public interest. The search for truth—whether there has been plunder and corruption; whether the result of the last elections was compromised or not—is what should matter most. The constitutional and judicial processes must be made to work.