EDITOR’S NOTE: The word war between and among presidential candidates has trickled down to their supporters. Here is an opinion article from one of our readers who wishes to remain anonymous. This is his opinion on presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte and it does not necessarily reflect the views of Kami.com.ph. If you are interested to contribute a different or a supporting opinion on this matter, feel free to e-mail your work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presidential frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte, much like Vice President Jejomar Binay, is currently facing a grave allegation of hiding unexplained wealth amounting to P211 million in a bank account in San Juan City, Metro Manila. His failure to disclose the huge amount as well as an apartment on P. Guevarra Street in the same city, in his 2015 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN)
What laws would he be violating and how bad is it?
The 1987 Constitution and two separate laws – Rep Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as well as RA No. 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees – are the Philippines’ big guns against corruption. These mandate all public officers and employees to declare under oath true amount of all their assets, after taking away the money used in obligations that need to be paid.
Former Chief Justice Renato Corona committed violations of constitution’s Article 17, Article XI and RA 3019 and RA6713 and was impeached. He failed to disclose the true amounts of his assets in his 2010 SALN. He declared only having total assets worth P3.5 million in 2010, but documents, including records of his bank accounts, showed he lied under oath. There was a total of P180 million in his bank accounts.
In this case, Duterte declared that his net worth (assets minus liabilities) in 2014 was only P21.97 million. It was clearly presented in his 2014 SALN, signed under oath. However, a controversial copy of Duterte’s bank records revealed by Senator Antonio Trillanes revealed that eight deposits totaling a whooping P197 million were made on March 28, 2014 into the Davao city mayor’s Bank if Philippine Islands (BPI) joint account with his daughter Sara.
It is a clear discrepancy – the P197 million indicates he was worth a lot more than just P21.97 million in that year.
This raises a series of urgent questions that will have a huge impact on his bid to become the next president of the Philippines. He has no choice but to answer these questions for the Filipino people.
Who made the deposits? Where did such an amount come from and why? If his monthly salary is only P78,946 as mayor of Davao City plus some extra income as a member of certain government bodies, how was he able to earn the P197 million and deposit into his account all in one day?
So perhaps he earned it through honest, legitimate and legal means. Why then did he not declare it in his 2014 SALN? Why did he also fail to declare his apartment in Metro Manila? He has admitted to an interview with the Inquirer that he certainly does own an apartment in San Juan, but why did he keep on claiming that the only house he owns is the one in Davao City?
His confirmation of the apartment is tantamount to perjury - failing to be truthful and honest in a legal document (his 2014 SALN) that he signed and swore to be true as part of his legal obligations under the constitution and two separate anti-corruption laws.
What does Duterte have to say for all this?
The presidential candidate has denied owning a BPI account, and dismissed the bank document given by Trillanes to the Inquirer as mere fabrication.
“The account is not true and is just a fabrication of Trillanes who is a money for hire. I will not play into their hands by issuing a waiver. The account is non-existent.”
His response raises another key question: if this mysterious BPI account is fake and he has nothing to hide, why isn’t Duterte willing to issue a legal document or a waiver authorizing BPI to publicly disclose all and any information about this account?
This blatant blanket denial of owning an undisclosed bank account with an amount of money far larger than what he legally earns as Davao city mayor puts him on the same level as Binay. The Vice President also denies owning a long list of properties and other unexplained wealth that was uncovered by the Anti-Money Laundering Council and other relevant agencies, including the Comission on Audit and the Ombudsman.
There is a second follow-up question about Duterte’s mysterious BPI account: if a single account already holds around P211 million, does he maintain other bank accounts with deposits just as big? Is he in control of hidden properties and other wealth, just like Binay?
Can the transactions, if proven to exist, be tracked?
The Inquirer has announced that the multi-million peso deposits into the Davao City Mayor’s joint account with his daughter Sara was made up of monies from other banks. The transfer of large amount of monies from sources which may be questionable or even illegal is often regarded as money laundering – a criminal offense in Philippines and most countries around the world. In Hong Kong, Filipino domestic helpers were sentenced to serve jail time for just a few hundred thousand Hong Kong dollars.
In the scenario that sufficient grounds for money laundering are established, it won’t be a surprise if Trillanes calls on the Anti Money Laundering Council and other pertinent government agencies to investigate the dubious transfers of millions of pesos into Duterte’s account.
The transfer of monies through banks, especially in large amounts, are always documented – this is called the paper trail. The paper trail accompanying these transactions can easily be obtained, and revealed if warranted. One only needs to remember the 2012 impeachment of Corona, or in more recent news, the RCBC laundering of millions of US dollars from a bank account of Bangladesh in New York to see that it is easy for the Council to gather records of targeted bank deposit from the affected banks.
While it would be wise to give Duterte the benefit of the doubt, especially since it’s the heat of election season, bank records cannot just be faked. If he truly is maintaining a BPI account, records of this account will be revealed sooner or later.
In the worst case scenario, can we impeach him after he wins presidency?
Corona, the former head of Judiciary, was impeached by the Congress on grounds of violating the constitution, as well as various anti-corruption laws relating to his misdeclarations in his 2010 SALN. He was removed from his post by the Legislative branch, a co-equal of the Judiciary and the Executive branch.
If Duterte is eventually found to have perpetrated the same offense Corona did, he can be subjected to the same impeachment proceedings in Congress, even if he wins the May 9 election, for violating the constitution and the two laws against corruption cited in Corona’s case.
If it is established that he really does own a joint BPI account with his daughter, and the apartment in San Juan, this will be a huge blow to the trust his voters have placed on him, and it will strongly question his honesty and integrity as a public official. He will certainly be challenged if, in his stand against corruption in the government, he is implicated as well.
If it is discovered that he withheld his ownership of a property in Metro Manila and the enormous bank deposits from public knowledge, it is a mockery of his vow to fight corruption. The Commission on Audit, citing its findings, has already questioned his administration for more than P700 million that was misspent in his city.
Binay maintains that no court has proven that he is guilty of all the corruption allegations made against him – even those endorsed by the Ombudsman to the Sandiganbayan after finding sufficient grounds for filing those cases against him. He continues to hold on to his blanket denials, but has repeatedly refused to defend himself any further and refute in detail the accusations.
Duterte seems to be doing the same thing, as well – using blanket denials and refusing to divulge records of that mysterious BPI account for the public to see for themselves.
Anybody who aims for the highest post in any and all countries must always be subjected to the highest moral and ethical standards. Candidates should lay bare as much information as possible in the interest of transparency and public service.
If Duterte really is upholding the constitution and the laws of the land, and if he really is fit for the presidency, he should reveal any and all information about his mysterious BPI account and his San Juan City apartment.
Failure to do this will challenge the legitimacy of his presidency – assuming he wins the election – which, in turn, may eventually lead to impeachment proceedings filed against him.