PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has insisted that he did not have millions in his bank accounts and that if the money existed his critics “can take it.”
At the same time, Duterte reiterated that he would step down from the Presidency if it could be proven that he had deposits outside the Philippines.
“If there is P211 million, they can take it. And I’d be happy if they give me P1,000 and they can…if there is one, they can confiscate it,” Duterte said in a speech during the 116th anniversary of the Balangiga, Eastern Samar encounter between Filipino and American soldiers.
“And if I have a deposit outside of the Philippines, even just for a dollar, I will step down from the Presidency and you can kill me in a moment in the name of those who suffered for the greater good of what is now the Republic of the Philippines,” Duterte added.
The P211 million Duterte was referring to was the money that Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th claimed the then Davao mayor allegedly had at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branch in Pasig.
The bank issued a certificate saying that Duterte did not have an account with them.
Trillanes, however, filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman in May 2016, election month, claiming that Duterte and his family amassed P2.4 billion through corrupt activities from 2006 to 2015.
The President dismissed on Friday the controversy on his bank accounts as politicking and that the public should believe him.
“You know politics. But just take my word for it, there is really none. I don’t have P200…P211 million. [If I had that] I would not have run for President. I would have just rested,” Duterte said.
“It’s like this. If you believe these…go ahead. Believe them. If you believe me, then so be it,” Duterte added.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Ombudsman said it would pursue the case of Duterte’s alleged ill-gotten wealth even after the President announced that he would be creating a commission to investigate the Ombudsman.
“The President’s announcement that he intends to create a commission to investigate the Ombudsman appears to have to do with this Office’s on-going investigation into issues that involve him. This Office, nonetheless, shall proceed with the probe, as mandated by the Constitution,” according to a statement released on Friday.
“This Office, all the same, welcomes, as it has always welcomed, efforts to help it cleanse its ranks. Its Internal Affairs Board has, in fact, entrapped and removed Ombudsman officials and employees for various offenses,” the statement said.
Duterte accused the Office of the Ombudsman of corruption and accused it of choosing who it would investigate.
The Ombudsman said it would be investigating the complaint Trillanes filed in May 2016.
“If the President has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear,” it said.
Meanwhile, Trillanes asked the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to focus on expediting its report on the President’s bank transactions as requested by the Office of the Ombudsman instead of issuing unnecessary statements that seemed to absolve the President.
At the same time, Trillanes also questioned the authenticity of the statement issued by the AMLC.
“AMLC should just expedite its final report regarding Duterte’s questionable bank transactions as requested by the Ombudsman, so that the public would know the truth about the Duterte bank accounts,” said Trillanes, a staunch critic of the Chief Executive.
The AMLC, in a statement Thursday, denied giving Duterte’s bank records to either Trillanes or the Ombudsman.
According to the AMLC, it received on September 6 the request of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang to initiate an investigation into the President’s accounts, but added it would have to first evaluate the request.
Carandang said the copy of the bank records from AMLC was “more or less” the same as the ones exposed by Trillanes.
Trillanes expressed doubts on the AMLC statement because it was unsigned and undated.
“The signature is important so that the statement could be attributed to a particular person, who has been authorized by the Council to issue such a message,” he said.
“It is improper in its necessity for release and in its tenor, which sounded like the AMLC was defending and absolving Duterte,” Trillanes said.
In September or more than a year after filing his complaint, Trillanes challenged the President to sign waivers that would authorize the banks in question to open his accounts to the public.
Trillanes issued the challenge after signing 12 bank waivers himself to disprove Duterte’s claims about his alleged multimillion-dollar deposits in several banks abroad.
The President turned down Trillanes, saying that he won’t give in to the senator’s whims, saying that as the accuser, he should present evidence.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVA