NBI hunting down ex-Comelec chief Andy Bautista in the US

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Former Commission on Elections chief Andres Bautista (FILE)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 20) — It's been almost two years, but former Commission on Elections chief Andres Bautista has managed to walk free in the United States despite a standing arrest warrant issued by the Senate.

This was among issues raised during the Senate debates on the ₱22-billion budget of the Department of Justice for 2020. Its attached agency, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), said it has yet to find a way to capture Bautista, who was impeached by the House of Representatives in 2017 amid allegations of unexplained wealth.

Before an impeachment trial could stretch longer, Bautista resigned from his post October that year. The complaint stemmed from allegations made by his estranged wife, Patricia, that he accepted commissions on referred cases, had ghost employees, and went on questionable trips.

It was later on discovered that Bautista has flown to the US On November 21, 2017. He refused to return to the Philippines despite a subpoena to attend a Senate probe, citing "medical challenges", and added that he never received the summons sent by lawmakers.

Senate President Tito Sotto sought for an update into his case.

READ: Senate panel wants ex-Comelec chief arrested for skipping probe despite subpoena

"They (NBI) said he is really in the US. They are studying their next moves," Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara said during the plenary debates. He added that the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) said the Office of the Ombudsman has been coordinating with their office regarding the case.

Prior to his stint as Comelec chief, Bautista was head of the PCGG and was dean of the Institute of Law of the Far Eastern University.

Bautista's wife presented documents to the NBI to reveal more than ₱335 million in local and foreign bank accounts that were not disclosed in the public official’s Statement of Assets and Liabilities, alongside 14 real properties said to be worth over ₱300 million.

She also accused Bautista of having a "gift-wrapped" cash package in their home. Bautista denied all these claims, instead saying that his wife stole his cash, bank cards, and other documents in 2016 and accusing her of extortion.

Patricia's lawyer Lorna Kapunan wrote in a BusinessMirror column on Monday that Bautista was spotted roaming the US in a "comfortable self-exile". She pointed out Facebook posts that showed Bautista attending the screening of the documentary film The Kingmaker there, which tackles the life and wealth of former First Lady Imelda marcos.