MANILA, Philippines – Who is Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, the man now at the center of a controversy involving at least P1-billion worth of unexplained wealth?
Before becoming chair of the poll body, Bautista had more than two decades of law practice, serving in international law firms and government agencies.
Born on March 28, 1964 in Quezon City, Bautista is married to Patricia Paz C. Bautista, a businesswoman. They have 4 children, the eldest of whom is 16.
A lawyer by profession, Bautista obtained his law degree from Ateneo de Manila University and graduated class valedictorian in 1990. He pursued a master of laws degree at Harvard University in 1993. He is a member of the Philippine and New York bars.
After graduate school, Bautista joined several private firms before turning to teaching and eventually joining government service.
Bautista practiced law with Castillo Laman Tan & Pantaleon based in Manila in 1992, and Troutman Sanders in Atlanta in 1993. He worked with international law firm White & Case based in New York and Hong Kong for 7 years, before moving to the Allen & Overy law firm in 2001.
In the same year, he became country head of Anglo Oriental Consulting Ltd in Manila, which provides consulting services in international corporate, capital markets, and infrastructure financings.
In 2006, Bautista became CEO of the Kuok Group in the Philippines, the investments of which include Shangri-La hotels and resorts. At the same time, he was also serving as dean of the Far Eastern University’s Institute of Law, a position he held since November 1999. Before becoming dean, he had also been a lecturer in constitutional law in the Morayta campus.
Bautista also previously served as chairman and president of the Philippine Association of Law Schools. He had also been a member of 3 constitutional reform commissions under different Philippine presidents.
In 2010, Bautista headed the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), replacing former chairman Camilo Sabio. In 2012, Bautista was one of the nominees for the position of chief justice, but lost to then Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Three years later, Bautista was tapped by former president Benigno Aquino III to head the Comelec.
He entered the poll body at a time when the Comelec faced a pressing problem: a Supreme Court ruling that could render 82,000 vote-counting machines useless in the 2016 elections.
Bautista had the task of ensuring clean and peaceful elections, but his leadership of the Comelec faced several challenges.
In March 2016, just several months before the May 9 polls, a group of hackers accessed the Comelec database and posted the data – including voter registration data – online. The National Privacy Commission later said Bautista was “criminally liable” for the leak of voters’ data. Several lawyers argued that the data leak was enough to impeach Comelec officials.
In April, the SC granted Rappler’s petition to stop Bautista from restricting online access to the coverage of the presidential and vice presidential debates. This came nearly two months since Rappler filed a lawsuit against the Comelec chief.
In June 2016, all 6 Comelec commissioners criticized Bautista for his “failed leadership,” citing various issues such as the delayed allowances of teachers who served as election inspectors.
Now Bautista is facing another allegation, with his own wife accusing him of having nearly P1 billion in unexplained wealth.
In his 2016 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), Bautista declared a net worth of P176.3 million, an increase of P6 million from his 2015 net worth.
Bautista declared real properties totaling P158.5 million and personal properties worth P83.3 million, while he listed liabilities amounting to P65.5 million.
He had the highest net worth in 2016 among the heads of 5 constitutional bodies.
But his wife alleged that Bautista had several bank accounts and condominium units supposedly not included in the Comelec chief’s SALN.
Bautista denied the accusation, however, saying it was an “extortion” attempt by his wife, with whom he has had marital problems.
But he also said that he was ready to face an impeachment complaint over the accusation.
He is not the first Comelec chair to face a possible impeachment complaint. In 2007, former Comelec chief Benjamin Abalos faced an impeachment complaint over corruption allegations involving the controversial national broadband network project with a Chinese firm. Abalos eventually resigned, rendering the impeachment bid against him moot. – Rappler.com