Just like Vice President Jejomar Binay, presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte now faces a very serious allegation of hiding unexplained wealth in the form of P211 million in a bank account in San Juan city in Metro Manila. His failure to disclose the huge amount, coupled with an apartment on P. Guevarra Street also in that city, in his 2014 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) raises a series of serious corruption-related questions that the Davao city mayor has to answer — whether he likes it or not.
The 1987 constitution and two separate laws, Republic Act No. 3019 and RA No. 6713 — major legal weapons of the Philippine government against corruption — require all public officers and employees to declare under oath the true amount of all their assets after taking away all liabilities or amounts that need to be paid. RA 3019 is the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, while RA 6713 is the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Violations of the constitution’s Article 17, Article XI and RA 3019 and RA 6713 resulted in the sacking in 2012 of former Chief Justice Renato Corona for his failure to disclose the true amount of his assets in his 2010 SALN. He declared he only had total assets in 2010 worth P3.5 million, but documents, including records of his bank accounts, showed he lied under oath as he had a combined P180 million in his bank accounts.
In Duterte’s case, he declared that his net worth (or assets less all liabilities) in 2014 only amounted to P21.97 million. This was clearly shown in his 2014 SALN that he signed under oath. But a copy of Duterte’s bank records — revealed by Senator Antonio Trillanes — showed that eight deposits totalling P197 million were made on March 28, 2014 into the Davao city mayor’s Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) joint account with his daughter Sara.
That the mayor, together with his daughter, had P197 million in only one bank account as of March 28, 2014 clearly indicate that he was worth much more than P21.97 million that same year.
Please see this Philippine Daily Inquirer story for details of the disclosure made by Trillanes http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/781831/trillanes-duterte-didnt-declare-p211m-in-saln
QUESTIONABLE DEPOSITS INTO DUTERTE’S BPI ACCOUNT
Eight deposits were made into Duterte’s account at the BPI branch at its Julia Vargas branch which amounted to a total of P197 million — all on a single day, March 28, 2014, which happened to be his 69th birthday.
The fact that a total of P197 million was deposited into Duterte’s account in a single day raises a series of very serious questions that have a direct impact on his bid to become the next president of the Philippines. He has no choice but to answer these questions to the Filipino people.
Who made the deposits? Where did the huge amount come from? If he is only getting P78,946 (Salary Grade 30) in monthly salary as mayor of Davao city plus extra income as member of several government bodies, how was he able to amass P197 million deposited into his account all in one day?
If Duterte earned the huge amount through legitimate or legal means, why didn’t he declare it in his 2014 SALN? Why did he also fail to declare in his 2014 SALN that he also owns an apartment in Metro Manila — as shown in the bank record disclosed by Trillanes? He has admitted in an interview with the Inquirer that he owns an apartment in San Juan city. If this is so, why did he keep on claiming that the only house that he owns is the old one in Davao city?
DUTERTE’S REPLY TO TRILLANES’ REVELATIONS
Duterte has denied owning a BPI account and described the bank document given by Trillanes to the Inquirer as a mere fabrication.
“The account is not true and is just a fabrication of Trillanes who is a money for hire,” Duterte told the Inquirer. “I will not play into their hands by issuing a waiver. The account is non-existent.”
But the key question to this mysterious BPI account is this: If he has nothing to hide and if this BPI account is fake, why can’t Duterte issue a waiver or a legal document authorizing BPI to disclose to the public all information about this account?
While denying the existence of the BPI account, he confirmed owning an apartment on P. Guevarra Street in San Juan city. His confirmation is tantamount to perjury or failing to be truthful and honest in a legal document — his 2014 SALN — that he signed and sworn to be true as part of his legal obligations under the constitution and two separate laws on corruption.
Duterte’s blanket denial of owning a secret bank account with a huge amount — way above what he earns legally as Davao city mayor — puts him virtually in the same level as Binay who also denies owning a long list of properties and other unexplained wealth uncovered by the inter-agency Anti Money Laundering Council and other relevant agencies, including the Comission on Audit and the Ombudsman.
Another relevant question to ask about the mysterious BPI account is this: If a single account already holds a total of P211 million plus, as per the disclosure of Trillanes backed up documents, does Duterte maintain other bank accounts with huge deposits and is he in control of hidden properties and other wealth, just like Binay?
MONEY LAUNDERING AND INCRIMINATING PAPER TRAIL
The Inquirer has reported that the multi-million peso deposits into Duterte’s joint account with her daughter Sara comprised transfers of monies from other banks. Transfers of large amounts of monies from sources which may be deemed questionable or even illegal may be seen and regarded as money laundering, a criminal offense in the Philippines and in most countries around the world, including Hong Kong for which some Filipino domestic helpers had been jailed for just a few hundred thousand Hong Kong dollars.
If sufficient grounds for money laundering are established, it will not be a major surprise if Trillanes calls on the Anti Money Laundering Council and other relevant government agencies to look into the questionable transfers of millions of pesos into Duterte’s account.
Transfer of monies through the banks, specially large amounts, are always documented. The so-called paper trail accompanying these transactions can easily be gathered and later, revealed if warranted. As what the Anti Money Laundering Council has shown in the 2012 impeachment of Corona and more recently, in the RCBC laundering of millions of US dollars stolen from a bank account of Bangladesh in a New York bank account, this agency can easily gather records of targeted bank deposits from concerned banks.
Duterte has denied owning a joint account with his daughter in BPI, insisting it was fake or mere fabrication. But bank records cannot just be faked. If he is really maintaining an account with BPI, records of this account will come out one day.
IMPEACHMENT EVEN AFTER HE WINS PRESIDENCY?
Corona was impeached in 2012 by the Congress on grounds of violating the constitution and various anti-corruption laws relating to his misdeclarations in his 2010 SALN. He headed the Judiciary, a co-equal branch of the Executive branch, headed by the president.
But even if Corona headed the Judiciary, he was still ousted from his post by the Legislative branch, which is a co-equal of the Judiciary and the Executive branch.
If Duterte is eventually found to have committed the same offense as Corona did in 2012, he can be similarly subjected to impeachment proceedings in Congress — even if he wins the May 9 election — for violations of the constitution and the two anti-corruption laws cited in Corona’s case.
If it can be established eventually that he really owns the BPI account with his daughter, as well as the apartment in San Juan city, both of which he did not declare in his 2014 SALN, this will clearly and strongly question his honesty and integrity as a public official.
If it is eventually ascertained that he withheld from public knowledge owning huge bank deposits and a property in Metro Manila, this will also make a mockery of his pledge to fight corruption. Citing findings of its audit, the Commission on Audit has already questioned his administration over more than P700 million that was misspent in his city.
The credibility of an official speaking about eradicating corruption in government will certainly be questioned if that same official is implicated in various irregularities.
Binay insists that no court in the land has proven his guilt in a wide array of corruption allegations made against him, including those that have already been endorsed by the Ombudsman to the Sandiganbayan after finding sufficient bases or grounds for filing those corruption and other cases against the vice president. Binay keeps on issuing blanket denials against the corruption allegations leveled against him, but he has repeatedly refused to refute in detail those accusations.
Duterte is now using Binay’s approach — using blanket denials plus refusing to open to public scrutiny records of that mysterious BPI account.
People aiming for the highest post in any and all countries are always subjected to the highest ethical and moral standards. Candidates for the presidency should bare as much information as possible in keeping with all legal requirements in the interest of transparency and public service.
If Duterte is really upholding the constitution and all laws of the land and if he is really fir for the presidency, he should bare all information about this mysterious BPI account and his San Juan city apartment.
If he fails to do this, the legitimacy of his presidency — if he wins the election — will be challenged from the very start which may lead eventually to impeachment proceedings being filed against him.