ANDRES Bautista (Andy) and Patricia Paz Cruz (Tisha) met on an airplane en route to Hong Kong sometime in 1999. While checking-in, Tisha’s beauty and personal style caught Andy’s eye, prompting him to make secret arrangements with the airline’s ground staff for him to be seated beside her. Side by side, 32,000 feet over the West Philippine Sea, Andy befriended Tisha. He later discovered that Tisha was billeted at the Mariott Hotel. Upon arriving in Hong Kong, he booked himself in the same hotel to continue the flirt offensive. Andy’s efforts paid off. Soon after, they were a serious couple on the way to the altar. So in love were the couple that Cole Porter’s “The Way You Look Tonight” remained their anthem for many years.

Andres Bautista
Comelec chairman Andres Bautista hold a press briefing at the Comelec building in Intramuros Manila on Aug. 7 and denies all the allegation of his wife. — PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

Fast forward to August 2017 and Tisha accuses Andy of graft, corruption and other vile indictments before a salivating media. The accusations were a result of Andy’s alleged refusal to give Tisha a divorce and her fair share of the family’s assets. With their proverbial dirty linen exposed, the public feasted on the couple’s marital woes. Meanwhile, the four Bautista children face severe shaming among their peers at the Ateneo. The persecution is so severe that the middle child has not attended classes since Aug. 7. As usual, the children pay the price of the parent’s misdeeds.

How did a beautiful story between two intelligent, civilized and accomplished people turn so ugly, so fast? I recently sat down with Andy to get his side of the story. I also asked him, rather bluntly, to state his defenses against the accusations hurled at him. This is what I came out with.

The downward spiral started in 2012 when Tisha started a business called Angel Brigade, later on renamed “Archeology.” The business traded in fortune-telling and other forms of the occult. She claims to have a third eye. Tisha was in partnership with Alvin Lim, the former life partner of Margarita Fores (Gaita), who, was also a good friend of Tisha’s.

Rumors soon spread that Tisha was having an affair with Alvin. The fact that she would spend as much as three nights a week with her “business partner” at their office only stoked the rumor flames. Eventually, Gaita discovered intimate e-mails between the two which eventually found its way to Andy. Outraged, Andy confronted Tisha and Alvin to ask if indeed, their relationship went beyond business. They denied the intimacy aspect of it. Tisha, however, admitted that Alvin was her true “soul mate.” Alvin allegedly has a third eye too.

Tisha’s declaration broke Andy, as it would any husband. Still, he was willing to work it out. However, Tisha’s mind was set on ending the marriage. She asked, numerous times, for a divorce but Andy would not grant it owing to the fact that the kids were still too young to handle the separation. Both families being devout Catholics, appealed to them to honor their vows, no matter how inconvenient.

The Bautista couple have been estranged since 2012. Although living under one roof, the intimacy was gone and the marriage was reduced to a relationship of civility. Tisha continued to ask for a divorce and a monetary settlement while Andy tried to hang on.

The tipping point came in November last year.

While in the US to observe the American presidential elections, Andy received a call from Banco de Oro asking clearance for Tisha’s withdrawal of $117,000 and P250,000. Shocked, Andy tried to call Tisha but to no avail. The withdrawal went through as Tisha threatened to throw a tantrum at BDO if she didn’t get her money. It was a joint account.

At this point, Tisha had already hired Atty. Lorna Kapunan.

All hell broke lose when Andy arrived from the States. He was barred from entering their conjugal home by two armed men with pistols. The guards told Andy that they were there upon the instruction of Kapunan.

Inside the home, Tisha found a way to open Andy’s private cabinets from which bank statements, property titles, and cash were retrieved.

In Dec. 13, Andy’s camp received a text message, presumably from the office of Kapunan. The text contained a threat saying that they would organize a full-blown annulment case to cause a scandal and file money laundering and impeachment case against Andy. This led Andy to conclude that the attack on his person was pre-planned, pre-calculated, and premeditated.

Last February, Andy received a letter from Tisha’s lawyers demanding a settlement of P500 million in cash plus their adjoined conjugal home at Pacific Plaza Condominium worth about P120 million. The basis for the amount was Andy’s alleged net worth of over a billion pesos.

Andy maintains that his net assets are only worth P210 million. In a meeting negotiated by Tisha’s brother, Boey, Andy offered a settlement of P90 million plus a quiet divorce in Hong Kong. Everything was supposedly ironed out — at least until Tisha went public with the alleged corruption scandal a few weeks ago.

Marital issues aside, I reckon the entire issue comes down to three fundamental questions relating to Andy’s finances. I asked these questions, and he answered. You be the judge as to whether his answers carries weight.

My first question relates to the disparity of his SALN. The various bank statements and titles gathered by Tisha shows Andy’s net worth to be more than a billion pesos. His SALN, however, totals only P176 million. How is this justified?

Andy explained that if you look at the titles and bank accounts, the majority of them are “and/or accounts” with two to five nominees, all of whom are members of his family. As the lawyer of the family based in Manila, Andy is the default caretaker for the family estate, he says. All seven Bautista siblings are successful in their own right (doctors, lawyers, CEOs, etc.) as were the parents, hence, the amounts are substantial. Like many Filipino families, the Bautistas invest jointly to safeguard against legal complications in case someone passes away.

Tisha was well aware of the arrangement from the beginning, he added.

Why were the joint accounts left-out of the SALN?

Most, if not all public servants declare only the assets and liabilities which belong solely to them on their SALN, explained Andy. This is how the law is interpreted.

This also explains why politicians likes of Juan Ponce Enrile declared a net worth of only P122 million while his family owns the JAKA Group, a conglomerate worth hundreds of billions.

Accounts held on an and/or basis, especially with two or more nominees, are not normally declared by public servants. Whether this is right or wrong is subject to another discussion. The point is, Andy claims he only followed the established methods of the bureaucracy.

So how do you explain having 37 bank accounts with a collective balance of more than P500 million on a government salary, I asked.

Before joining government, Andy says he was a practicing lawyer, a country head for an international consulting firm and CEO of Kuok Properties, among others. In short, he was established before joining government, he asserts.

As for the P500 million, Andy claims that a good number of these bank accounts are closed. Those that remain are funds of the family. All these, he says, will be explained in detail before the courts. There is nothing to hide.

On the side, I asked if there was political motivation to this controversy? He answered in the affirmative.

Is it true you are holding on to your position to protect the interest of the Liberal Party?

To this, I discovered that Andy is not even a member of the Liberal Party. He never was. In fact, records show that he ruled in favor of Grace Poe’s presidential candidacy despite this working to the disadvantage of Mar Roxas.

Tisha has since filed a “violence against women and children” case against Andy for not appropriately providing for her monetary needs. For his part, Andy has filed multiple cases against Tisha for extortion and blackmail, among others.

While the parents fight it out, the shaming of the kids continues. Only time will tell how deep the scars are and if this family will have anything left to heal after the dust settles.

Andrew J. Masigan is an economist.