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Gatchalian: Senate has right to probe Bautista

By: Mario B. Casayuran

Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Economic Affairs Committee, said yesterday the Senate has the constitutional right to look into the evidence of corrupt practices aired against Commission on Election Chairman Andres Bautista because the reputation of the Philippines as a staunch democratic country is at stake.

“We must see the evidence first and investigate thoroughly. It is difficult to say whether it (Bautista’s conduct of alleging amassing a big amount of money, particularly during the past electoral process) is impeachable. Our country’s reputation is at stake. It is an attack on the principle of our democracy which is our election and on the reputation of the Comelec, the constitutional body that executes the election, a pillar of our country,’’ Gatchalian told Senate reporters.

Bautista’s wife, Patricia Paz Bautista, had submitted an affidavit to the National Bureau of Investigation stating that the Comelec chief might have amassed nearly P1-billion worth of ill-gotten wealth although her husband had declared a net worth of P176.3 million in his Statement of Asset, Liabilities, and Net Worth that every member of bureaucracy submits every year.

Gatchalian said the revelation of Mrs. Bautista shocked him since Bautista holds an important, sensitive position as head of the country’s election electoral agency.

This is a sensitive issue especially the fact that the country went through a hotly-contested 2016 national elections, he added.

He said an allegation that a portion of supposed P1 billion might have been amassed during the past presidential, vice presidential, and senatorial and local elections must be substantiated.

Gatchalian conceded that it is easy to accuse any wrong doing but the most important thing is to determine whether there is evidence to support such accusation.

He said he doesn’t want to cast any cloud of doubt on the integrity of the outcome of the past elections because “it is not good for the reputation of our country.’’