Disclaimer: the opinions, thoughts, views in this article are solely from the writer, and do not reflect those of COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautista and his family. Quotes, sources are highlighted, linked to or acknowledged when relevant. This was originally posted August 10, 2017 but has been revised, rewritten to accommodate newer information.
Written and photographed
By Jude Thaddeus Bautista
I first met COMELEC Chairman Atty. Andres Bautista when I was 14 years old through badminton. He was always just Andy to us. He wasn’t that much older (22); he was like a kuya or older brother. Andy along with his college buddy Vincent Rondaris were looking for a way to de-stress from the pressures of Law school in Ateneo. It was the late 80s, badminton wasn’t popular then. My parents, brothers and I all played together. We all enjoyed his easygoing, lighthearted personality. So much so that we’re still friends even after those years to the 90s, to this day.
That’s why when PDI (Philippine Daily Inquirer) broke the screaming headlines last August 7, 2017, Monday of his wife Patricia Paz Bautista accusing him of amassing P1 Billion in hidden wealth we were all shocked and dismayed. Tisha even accused him of emotional and verbal abuse under the acronym: VAW (violence against women). This was something none of us could believe, as I had never even heard him raise his voice against anyone or lose his temper throughout the years of knowing him.
PDI had designated a large print space on top for Tisha’s baseless accusations while Andy was given a corner at the bottom about a third of space for his side. As side note, it was indicated that he was making the official statements in the presence of his mother in law and in their residence. If Tisha really were abused, why would her own mother be more supportive of Andy? In spite of this obvious fact that would clearly disprove at least one accusation media, some Senators and congressmen have already pre judged the embattled COMELEC (Commission On Elections) Chairman.
Even PDI, a newspaper I often quote and praise for their reporting, seemed to be too eager in publishing these accusations. Andy, incidentally, used to be a columnist for their rival, the Philippine Star. PDI would make it a banner story the following day as well, publishing slightly more of Andy’s side.
Tisha’s own mother Baby Cruz-Vazquez has recently broken her silence and made a statement in support of Andy: “I’ve known Andy for many years. I know him to be an honest man, upright, God-fearing husband and father. He is a man of unquestioned integrity, the kind of man any mother would entrust her daughter to. This is why I cannot believe the accusations against him even if they are from my own daughter.”
Erudite and God fearing
Andy belongs to a very distinguished, erudite and God fearing clan. Former De La Salle University President Brother Rafael Donato was his uncle, the brother of his mother. He was very close to Brother Rafe and was very much affected by his untimely death from a swimming accident. Even when it wasn’t easy for him to do so he made the time to teach in DLSU, Ateneo and even PLM (Pamantasan Ng Lungsod Ng Maynila). He internalized his uncle’s mission of teaching and sacrificing one’s self to help educate others. This is something that Far Eastern University recognized and appreciated. That’s why they made him Dean of their College of Law.
Immediately after getting to the top 5 of the Bar exams he went to Harvard to earn his Doctorate of Laws. By the time he got back to the Philippines he was already working for U.S. based law firm White and Case. He worked in their Hong Kong branch and was instrumental in opening their office here in Manila.
Andy’s own brother Martin is a doctor and sister Susan has lived and worked in the U.S. but is now with the ABS-CBN Foundation specifically in BANTAY BATA. Knowing their brother’s frugal, stingy lifestyle, he was designated as the family treasurer. Their names are among the Luzon Development Bank passbooks that Tisha claims to be evidence of wrongdoing.
ANC Early edition interview of Martin Bautista
Successful Corporate Lawyer
He was already a very successful international corporate lawyer, way before he married her. It wouldn’t be surprising if he had earned or created some sort of wealth for himself, all perfectly legal of course. Although, this is by no means the 1 billion pesos she dreamed of.
What is more believable is that Tisha wants to include her share in all of Andy’s wealth even before the period of their marriage.
By the time they were married Andy also became the President of the Shang Properties Inc. This is the conglomerate that operates Makati Shang Rila Hotel, Edsa Shang Rila Hotel and Shang Rila Plaza Mall. So, again it is understandable if Andy has gained a certain amount of financial success. Because of his good career record and is admired, respected in legal circles President Noy noy Aquino appointed him as PCGG (Philippine Commission on Good Government) Chair and later on COMELEC Chairman.
Loyalty vs Qualifications
In hindsight, it would’ve been far more lucrative for Andy had he just stayed in the private sector. His life would’ve been easier, less troublesome. But because of his desire to serve the country and sacrifice himself the way that he learned from Bro. Rafe and his family, he chose to work for PCGG and later on COMELEC. There was this idealism that he never lost since the days I met him as law student decades before.
This is not unlike the very accomplished career of Albert Del Rosario who was Director of Metro Pacific Investments Corp and sits on the board of many top corporations and was a former Ambassador before he was appointed as Secretary of the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs). Del Rosario fought for the decision of international court in The Hague to rule in favor of the Philippines with China’s incursion in our territory.
There is this glaring gap between the appointees of President Aquino and current President Duterte who preferred to base them on support during the campaign as opposed to achievements and qualifications. Among them flamenco dancer and actress Liza Diño was appointed FDCP Film Development Council of the Philippines Chairman, whose father is a known supporter of Duterte. Then there’s Mocha Uson from the singing group Mocha Girls with the hit ‘Wag Kang Jejemon’ as Assistant Secretary in the Presidential Communications Office. Uson was also previously appointed to the MTRCB (Movie Television Review and Classification Board)
Hands Not Really Off
The issue of loyalty vs qualifications, loyalty vs independent thinking goes to the very heart of the conflict between Andy and Patricia. When PDI broke the news on Monday August 7, it was about Tisha meeting with President Duterte (July 26) and showing him the passbooks and documents supposedly as evidence of corruption. On August 1, the President met with Andy. The President has gone on to say that he was hands off on the issue between the marital spat.
Meanwhile his supporters/allies, namely DOJ secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Senator Tito Sotto have expressed their intentions of investigating the corruption accusations on Andy from wife Tisha. The possible impeachment or forced resignation of Andy as COMELEC Chairman has lot of political implications. Since Andy has proven to be impartial, objective in his post, the president has no control over him and has a longer tenure.
There is fear from some quarters that Duterte will take advantage of the situation to wrest control of the COMELEC. Clearly Andy has been objective without partisan biases. That’s why the last election was universally praised with dozens and dozens of international observers who hailed the honest and efficient manner that it was conducted. That’s what’s at stake here now.
They’ve done it before
Previous events give credence to this fear. In 2014, Vice President Binay was leading the Presidential polls. Senator Allan Peter Cayetano then led a hearing into the investigation of corruption charges against Binay. The VP would never recover again in the polls after that. Cayetano’s motives would not have been questioned except for the fact that he became the running mate of Mayor Duterte. He was seen as ‘paving the way’ for Duterte in the presidential elections in 2016. As reward Cayetano was appointed DFA Secretary.
Democratic System of Checks and Balances
Democracy in the Philippines is very much threatened. Democracy isn’t just about individual rights, although we ALL know how much President Duterte values it. His famous quote being ‘Human rights? AMBOT!’ (Roughly translated from Visayan: Whatever). House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has already threatened ‘to strangle the Commission on Human Rights budget to the point of the agency not being able to operate and exist anymore’. This was after President Duterte wanted the CHR abolished. (from Rappler.com: Give CHR zero budget if it cannot be abolished – Alvarez)
Democracy is also about the natural checks and balances of the main branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. That’s why Trump and Duterte don’t understand why a Supreme Court judge ruling sometimes curtails their powers as president. Or when Trump can’t just ram through his legislative agenda in the U.S. congress and senate.
According to Britannica.com : The framers of the U.S. Constitution, who were influenced by Montesquieu and William Blackstone among others, saw checks and balances as essential for the security of liberty under the Constitution: “It is by balancing each of these powers against the other two, that the efforts in human nature toward tyranny can alone be checked and restrained, and any degree of freedom preserved in the constitution” (John Adams).
Presidents don’t have absolute power for a reason.
Human Rights Watch executive Director Kenneth Roth writes, “Unfettered majoritarianism, and the attacks on the system of checks and balances that keep governmental power constrained by rights and the rule of law, is perhaps the greatest danger today to the future of Western democracies.”
Here in the Philippines it’s already far worse.
Lower House Control
We have both the Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez and majority house leader in Cong. Rodolfo Fariñas who are known and proven to be Duterte’s strongest allies.
From Rappler article Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte’s lieutenant at the House :
‘He has the backing of the 250 members of the House supermajority, their sheer number giving Alvarez comfort that Duterte’s pet bills could be passed under his watch…His anointment as House Speaker by the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) was not a surprise. Alvarez, after all, played a crucial role in Duterte’s rise to the presidency.’
The same article states: ‘Alvarez, PDP-Laban’s secretary-general, convinced his party to have one member – Martin Diño – file his certificate of candidacy (COC) on the last day to give Duterte another shot at being president.’ This is the same Martin Diño, whose daughter Liza Diño was appointed FDCP Chair as mentioned earlier.
The connection with Martin Diño in this case is also relevant as he is the former Chairman of the VACC. The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption is the same organization that has filed impeachment cases against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno AND COMELEC Chairman Andy Bautista. (From Rappler article: VACC starts impeachment case buildup vs Chairman Bautista) They also filed the criminal case against Senator Leila De Lima, long time critic of President Duterte that led to her arrest. (From ABS CBN News: VACC insists case vs De Lima is ‘strong’)
Current VACC Chairman and founder Dante Jimenez has himself said: Ang VACC at si President Duterte iisang pusod lang ang hinuhugotan e: anti crime, anti corruption, anti-illegal drugs. My brother was killed by a drug syndicate…Matagal ko na siyang kaibigan” [Pres. Duterte and the VACC are joined at the hip for the same causes… He is a long time friend.]
This is from an interview of Dante Jimenez on UNTV’s Get it Straight.
Facts speak for themselves. While President Duterte says he is ‘hands off’ on the marital spat, his appointee in DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has expressed intentions in investigating Andy Bautista. (Philstar: DOJ Expands Probe on COMELEC Chief)
The VACC an organization that has close ties with Duterte has already filed an impeachment case against Bautista in the lower House that happens to have a Speaker identified as a Duterte ‘Lieutenant’ in Pantaleon Alvarez, with ‘supermajority’ leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
In the upper house Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III has initiated an investigation on Bautista. “Sotto said he filed Senate Resolution 456 for the purpose of coming up with appropriate amendments to Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.” [From GMA NEWS ONLINE: Sotto: No politics in seeking Senate probe on allegations vs. Comelec chief ]
Our Judiciary has independent minds, so judges are maligned. Our president has repeatedly criticized Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. He also has an ongoing word war with Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. They are both women with unquestionable integrity and sharp legal minds, who won’t cave in to his whims or close their eyes to the many extra judicial killings and possible cases against the policemen who have perpetrated them. The supposed arrest of Mayor Parujinog that led to his death is only the latest among high profile figures.
Now people are up in arms with the killing of Kian Lloyd De los Santos, the 17 year old who was accused as a drug runner. Seeing the reaction, the President said “Intel is intel. So, if there is no probative value, how can you use it in court and to the people? Those are just information gathered by the police and the military. It is an internal thing… Maya-maya mali iyan (it may even be wrong).” [from philstar.com Duterte: Police intel on Kian could be wrong]
Kill 1,000, I’ll Protect You
His reaction to the Kian case contradicts his famous July 2016 statement, “Do your duty, and if in the process you kill one thousand persons because you were doing your duty, I will protect you. And if they try to impeach me, I will hurry the process and we will go out of the service together” [from philstar.com: Duterte to PNP: Kill 1,000, I’ll protect you]
The inconsistencies in his statements, underline his combative stance against members of the judiciary. In his word war against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales he said, “I will not allow my men to go there to be investigated. Human Rights Commission, you address your request through me because the Armed Forces is under me and the police is under me. And for the Ombudsman to refrain from citing them in contempt for what? Because I have the authority to give the final say whether they will attend (an investigation) or not.” [from Inquirer.net : Ombudsman Morales tells Duterte: Anong Pakialam Niya?]
In summary, President Duterte’s Lieutenant (coined by Rappler) Pantaleon Alvarez is Speaker of the House, with Rodolfo Fariñas as head of a ‘supermajority’. The President has a combative stance against members of the Judiciary as enumerated above. And an organization that has admitted close ties with the President, the VACC, has filed impeachment cases against Chief Justice Sereno, COMELEC Chair Andy Bautista and previous to that a Senator in Leila De Lima who has had a long history of criticizing Duterte.
In a truly progressive, mature democracy, the more independent the branches of government (Executive, Judiciary and Legislative) are from each other, the stronger the system of checks and balances. They are there to counter as John Adams puts it ‘efforts in human nature toward tyranny.’
The COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS is one such sensitive agency of government that has to be completely independent of the pressures and powers of the president.
Even if he is impeached or if he resigns Andy Bautista will not be the biggest loser here, it is our country. He came from a more lucrative private practice to serve the people. He has taken more stress, criticism and flak than he ever would if he just stayed as a successful international corporate lawyer.
If President Duterte appoints his own COMELEC Chair it will further weaken the system of checks and balances that is supposed to be inherent to our democracy. The possible impeachment and or resignation of Atty. Andres Bautista is the latest threat to our already weakened democracy.
(not yet complete but will be updated)