DETHRONED BEAUTY QUEEN HUNTED
TO FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES
Manila, April 21, 1999 - Where is Janelle Bautista? Authorities are searching for the Balikbayan beauty queen who was stripped of the Binibining Pilipinas 1999 title for misrepresenting her citizenship. Criminal cases are now ready to be filed against the 22-year-old Californian, for falsification and tampering of a public document.
Trouble began for the US-based Bautista, a Communications major at the California University at Northridge, when she presented a Philippine passport to the organizers of the Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant.
The passport, which appeared to have the serial number DD961793, issued ostensibly by the DFA main office in Manila. There was one problem: passport number DD961793 was still with the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco.
Investigation showed that Bautista's document was originally numbered CC961793, and was among the blank passports stolen from the DFA office in Lucena last year. Professional counterfeiters tapered with the serial number of the passport, changing the CC to DD to conceal its true origin.
Bautista , who was crowned Binibining Pilipinas Universe, was to represent the country at the Miss Universe pageant in Trinidad and Tobago next month. She was dethroned last March 24 after contest organizers discovered the misrepresentation.
A diplomatic official told reporters that mere possession of a stolen passport is prima facie evidence, or one that proves one's guilt even before an investigation. Bautista made matters worse for herself when she refused to face investigators despite repeated notices from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
"We don't know where she is. Some say she has already left the country using her real passport," said investigators. "There are reports that she's an American citizen."
To replace Bautista, first runner-up Miriam Quiambao will represent the Philippines in the Miss Universe pageant.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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