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NBI probes Comelec chief’s ‘hidden wealth’

By: Rey G. Panaligan

Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II ordered the National Bureau of Investigation yesterday to look into the alleged P1-billion hidden wealth of Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista as claimed by his estranged wife Patricia Paz.

Aguirre’s order was contained in Department Order No. 517 which states:

“The NBI, through its Director, is hereby directed and granted authority to conduct investigation and case build-up over the alleged failure to disclose pertinent information required in the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth of Chairperson Andres D. Bautista contained in the affidavit of Mrs. Patricia Paz Bautista, including possible determination of violation of Anti-Money Laundering Law and other related laws.”

The NBI was required to submit monthly reports on its probe.

Aguirre said that as chairman of Comelec, Bautista can be removed from office only through impeachment under the provision of the Constitution.

But he said the Comelec chairman is not immune from criminal investigation and can only be charged in court once removed from office through impeachment.

“The NBI may conduct any investigation of any government official, regardless of whether they are impeachable or not,” he told journalists covering the Department of Justice.

“Being charged is different from being investigated. You could use the investigation to support the impeachment charges,” Aguirre explained.