MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte distanced himself from claims made by Patricia Paz “Tish” Bautista that her husband, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista, amassed ill-gotten wealth.
Duterte denied asking the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the matter and said he is treating the issue as a quarrel between husband and wife.
“No, I did not [order an investigation]. Give it to somebody else. I am not into the habit of investigating or prosecuting people from the other side of the political fence,” said the President on Monday, August 7, in Malacañang.
He called a press conference at the last minute because he wanted to explain his side after his name was dragged into the controversy.
Duterte said the most he offered Mrs Bautista in terms of assistance was help with finding a lawyer.
The second meeting he called, this time with the Comelec chief present, was also supposedly his way of resolving the issue.
“I was not meddling. I asked him to fix his quarrel with the wife. That is the thing that I can do as a lawyer. Sabi ko, tawagin mo ‘yan si Bautista, kasi may nagreklamo sa kanya (I said, call Bautista because someone is complaining about him),” Duterte said.
The President explained how the meeting with Mrs Bautista, who he calls “Tisha,” came about.
His office was called by one of Mrs Bautista’s lawyers. The lawyer asked if Duterte could meet with him and Mrs Bautista about the allegations against the Comelec chief since they planned to file a complaint against him.
Given Bautista’s position as head of the country’s poll body, Duterte felt he had to grant the request.
Bautista was appointed to his post by former president Benigno Aquino III. (READ: FAST FACTS: Who is Comelec chair Andres Bautista?)
“I do not want to be misconstrued. I said, I don’t want, leave me out because I don’t run after enemies, especially officials of the previous administration,” Duterte said.
However, Duterte has not minced words when criticizing Aquino administration officials, even calling Aquino himself “gago” (fool) for saying the drug war is not effective.
Asked what he would say to observers claiming that Duterte’s meeting with Mrs Bautista was politically motivated, the President said, “Kaya hindi ako nakikialam (That’s why I’m not intervening). I cannot help but listen to people who have complaints against anybody.”
Duterte seemed to say that, as far as he was concerned, he only wanted to fix the marital squabble of the Bautistas.
“Sabi ko, ‘The best thing I can do to you is I will call your husband, mag-usap kayo dito.’ So pagdating dito sabi ko usap, o tapos areglo. Walang areglo? Eh di wala. Uwi sila,” he said.
(I said, “The best thing I can do to you is I will call your husband so the two of you can talk.” So when they arrived, I told them to talk and reach a compromise. No compromise? Then nothing. They went home.)
But when told about the almost P1 billion in ill-gotten wealth allegedly amassed by Bautista, Duterte claimed he was dismissive.
“Sabi, ‘yung pera, ganoon…Spare me. I do not want to – sabihin mo na money, money (They said, ‘The money…’ Spare me. I do not want – you talk about money, money),” said the President. (READ: Duterte first told Congress leaders about Bautista’s alleged corruption)
Asked what he would do if the complaint led to an impeachment bid against Bautista, Duterte said he would not intervene.
“Hands-off ako diyan (I’m hands-off there)…That’s the reason why I refuse to discuss it,” he said.
Mrs Bautista claims her husband’s unexplained wealth comes in the form of money in 4 bank accounts, two condominium units, real properties, and “interests in corporations and loan agreements” in 3 overseas or offshore companies.
She added that these were not declared in her husband’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). In his 2016 SALN, the Comelec chief declared a net worth of P176.3 million.
Bautista denied all these allegations and, in turn, accused his wife of extortion.
While Duterte said he did not order the NBI to investigate, the probe was ordered by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday. (READ: Bautista’s alleged corruption casts doubt on 2016 poll results – senators) – Rappler.com
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