Comelec Chairman forms task force to probe ‘rigged bidding’ allegations in 2016 polls

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 2) – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George Garcia ordered the creation of a 12-man task force on Thursday to look into allegations of ‘rigged bidding’ in the 2016 national and local elections.

The move comes after reports about the US government filing a case against former Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista surfaced on September 21.

“Gusto natin alamin ano ba puno’t dulo ng lahat. Totoo ba accusations? Ano mga evidence meron sa America? At sino mga taong maaaring may kinalaman sa mga bagay na sinasabi,” Garcia said.

“Ang sinasabi kasi base sa ating pagkakaalam rigged bidding. Kung rigged yan, hindi naman pwedeng isang tao lang nag-rig ng bidding. Hindi natin sinasabi na makatotohanan yung allegations sapagkat lilitisin pa,” he added.

[Translation: We want to know the extent of this. Are the accusations true? What evidence does the US have? And who are the people involved? What’s being said involves rigged bidding. If this is rigged, it can’t just be one person. We’re not saying the allegations are true because it will still be tried in court.]

News site Rappler reported that the US Department of Homeland Security filed a case against Bautista at the US District Court in Southern Florida on Sept. 19.

It said the case stemmed from Bautista’s estranged wife, Patricia Paz Bautista, alleging that he had ill-gotten wealth supposedly secured from anomalous dealings linked to the presidential race in 2016.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Bautista denied receiving any “bribe money” from election technology provider Smartmatic during the 2016 polls.

The poll body chief clarified the investigation is not directed towards Bautista, and that the Commission had to show that it was not hiding anything.

“Hindi natin sinasabi na totoo allegations. Pero mas maganda lang na handa ang Comelec at alamin sino involved. Ilang tao? Nasa Comelec pa ba at anong extent ng participation ng bawat isa,” Garcia said.

[Translation: We’re not confirming the allegations but Comelec has to be ready to know who is involved, if they’re still with the agency, and the extent of the alleged participation.]

The poll body chief expects the report of the task force before the end of the year.