The alleged foreign bank accounts of Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th should be seriously investigated by the appropriate public authorities, not simply because President Rodrigo Duterte made the allegations, or because Trillanes is the one exposed. It is imperative because the matter must be handled with the public and national interest in mind. The President made his disclosure on public television (PTV4) armed with corroborating information.
The issue cannot be dismissed out of hand because serious questions are raised here regarding the integrity of a high Filipino public official, and existing laws may have been violated.
Moreover, it is alleged by the President that Trillanes accumulated his hidden money while serving a foreign interest, and doing grave disservice to the nation, perhaps even high treason.
The media must take care not to treat this matter as mere grist for their communications work or public gossip, no matter how avidly curious the public may be.
It is essential that a reliable public authority perform the work of determining the substance or falsity of the allegations. The people must glean from this affair confirmation of the existence of the accounts or vindication of the senator, as the case may be.
We are not in favor of having the matter probed by Congress, because such an inquiry, as we know from experience, will be at the mercy of politics. It will be exploited by legislators who love to grandstand, and by broadcast networks, which will seek to boost their ratings.
There is great irony in the fact that Trillanes this time around is the one alleged to be holding secret bank accounts, because in the past it was usually the senator who was pointing the finger at other people and their alleged accounts, including the President.
There is plenty to investigate. Among the serious allegations are:
1. The secret offshore accounts Trillanes opened when former president Benigno Aquino 3rd tapped the senator to conduct back-channel talks with China concerning Philippine maritime and territorial claims over portions of the South China Sea.
2. Trillanes has several bank accounts in Shanghai, Zurich, Geneva, and Singapore. In addition to such allegation is another, which says he also has online savings accounts in banks ANZ and ABN AMRO in Shanghai.
3. Trillanes has four savings accounts in Cayman Islands, which were opened online, and four accounts in the British Virgin Islands.
4. All the Trillanes foreign bank accounts have been “flagged as having international transactions.” There is ample corroboration for the story.
It is significant that Duterte has expressly labeled Trillanes’ signing of waivers on 12 offshore accounts as “worthless.” The President contends: “The secret here is that Trillanes’ money is spread all throughout the planet. And in his bank accounts, he has partners.
“So even if he waives everything there, his co-partners for every bank are Chinese nationals. If they do not sign a waiver, then you cannot open the account. You can’t really open it. And I am sure that his joint partners are dummies.”
DU30 elaborated: “The balances of these accounts are below $700,000, whereby most of the accounts are within the $100,000 to $300,000 range to avoid detection in terms of large amounts of money.”
Duterte said the documents in his possession were provided by foreign sources. “The US bank account number 927519921320 in Zurich has a balance of $75,000 or P3,801,385.05. The DBS account number 178000296012 in Singapore has a balance of 193,000,” he added.
At this stage, the biggest point of interest is not so much the balances in the accounts, but whether they truly exist, and whether they really belong to Trillanes. From what we can see there is plenty of reason for Philippine authorities to look further. As a respected member of the family of nations, our government should win plenty of cooperation in investigating this matter.
On the part of Sen. Trillanes, his main concern now will be to deny or dispute ownership of the accounts. If he can convincingly do so, he can win vindication.
Whatever its eventual destination, this case should be pursued and investigated to a just conclusion. Accountability must be established and appropriate charges should be filed.