Philippine elections chief files criminal raps against wife

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine elections chief filed criminal complaints Wednesday against his estranged wife, who has publicly accused him of amassing unexplained wealth and receiving commissions from a law firm whose clients include a company that provided vote-counting machines in last year's presidential polls.

Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista said the allegations made by his wife, Patricia Paz Bautista, and her lawyers "are all lies" and that he's filed complaints that include robbery and extortion against her. Her lawyer has denied the charges.

"It was my hope that we could still fix our marital problems or at least address them in a civil and decent manner," Bautista said in a statement sent to The Associated Press, adding that President Rodrigo Duterte tried to help mediate.

Bautista, however, said "it is now clear she is motivated by greed and that she will stop at nothing to besmirch my reputation and that of my family for the purpose of financial gain."

Bautista, who was once a nominee for the chief justice, has said the problem wasn't connected to and won't likely affect the outcome of the May 9 elections last year. Duterte won the presidency with a huge margin of more than 16 million votes. Leni Robredo emerged as vice president with a slim margin over Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a son and namesake of the late Philippine dictator.

Members of Congress, senators and the Department of Justice have called for an investigation of the looming scandal his wife has dubbed "my telenovela."

In a news conference with selected journalists last week, Bautista's wife said she found dozens of her husband's bank books, real estate property documents, checks, offshore investment papers and commission slips in their home late last year showing his wealth to be worth about 1 billion pesos ($19.8 million).

That was higher than the 176.3 million pesos ($3.5 million) in assets he declared last year in an annual disclosure required of all government officials, she said, adding she and her husband have been estranged since 2013.

"I found passbooks, properties that I have never heard of but belonged to Andy, found money, cash gift-wrapped," she said. "I realized that these things could actually be items of question, things that could get my children in trouble, me into trouble."

A law firm, whose clients included a Venezuelan company that provided electronic vote-counting machines in last year's elections, sent checks to the elections chief, she said.

Her husband said that the money was payment for condominium units he sold to the law firm's owner, whois his friend. The law firm said it did not represent the Venezuelan company over any legal issue before the Elections Commission.

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