Duterte re­fuses call to open his bank ac­counts to scru­tiny

The Myanmar Times - - Asean Focus -

THE Philip­pine pres­i­dent re­fused a de­mand by his most vo­cal critic to pub­licly re­lease de­tails of his bank ac­counts to dis­prove al­le­ga­tions that he had large sums of undeclared money.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte said in a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day that if op­po­si­tion Sen. An­to­nio Tril­lanes IV wanted “to get ev­i­dence, do not get it from my mouth. You must be stupid... Why would I give you the plea­sure?”

Tril­lanes first al­leged Duterte had un­ex­plained wealth dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign last year. In Fe­bru­ary, he pub­licly raised the is­sue again be­cause he said Duterte had not yet re­vealed de­tails of the more than 2 bil­lion pe­sos (US$39 mil­lion/K52.7 bil­lion) he al­legedly kept in bank ac­counts as a for­mer city mayor.

Duterte in­ad­ver­tently brought the is­sue back to pub­lic fo­cus re­cently when he al­leged Tril­lanes has sev­eral undeclared joint bank ac­counts with uniden­ti­fied Chi­nese men in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Aus­tralia and the United States. Tril­lanes de­nied it and signed about a dozen waivers for au­thor­i­ties to look into the al­leged bank ac­counts and de­manded that Duterte do the same.

Duterte went on a per­sonal at­tack against Tril­lanes, one of his harsh­est crit­ics and a for­mer navy of­fi­cer once de­tained for a failed coup plot. He mocked Tril­lanes for los­ing the vice pres­i­den­tial race last year and al­leged that the se­na­tor keeps huge funds in his bank ac­counts in amounts just be­low the level that could spark a Cen­tral Bank in­quiry.

Duterte said a move by an­other se­na­tor to file an eth­i­cal com­plaint against Tril­lanes could lead to his ouster from the cham­ber “be­cause of his be­hav­iour.”

Tril­lanes is among key of­fi­cials crit­i­cal of some of Duterte’s poli­cies who are fac­ing ouster attempts by the pres­i­dent’s po­lit­i­cal al­lies who over­whelm­ingly dom­i­nate the Philip­pine Congress.

On Wed­nes­day, the ma­jor­ity of the mem­bers of the Jus­tice Com­mit­tee of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives voted to de­clare an im­peach­ment com­plaint against Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice Maria Lour­des Sereno suf­fi­cient to in­ves­ti­gate her.

On Tues­day, law­mak­ers voted to slash the an­nual bud­get of the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights to 1,000 pe­sos ($20) for next year, al­though the de­ci­sion can still be changed.

Crit­ics were alarmed by the move, which they said could ef­fec­tively abol­ish the agency, which was cre­ated un­der the con­sti­tu­tion to in­ves­ti­gate hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. The agency was seek­ing an an­nual bud­get of 649 mil­lion pe­sos ($12.7 mil­lion).

Com­mis­sion Chair­man Chito Gas­con has been a vo­cal critic of Duterte’s bloody crack­down on il­le­gal drugs that has left thou­sands of peo­ple dead.

U.N. rights ex­pert Agnès Cal­la­mard said the move to mas­sively cut the rights agency’s bud­get was “rep­re­hen­si­ble and un­con­scionable.” Filipino Rep. Ed­cel Lag­man said the con­gres­sional move that could vir­tu­ally abol­ish a con­sti­tu­tional com­mis­sion was “un­con­sti­tu­tional.”

U.S.-based Hu­man Rights Watch said the move would deal a blow to hu­man rights ac­count­abil­ity in the Philip­pines.

“The vote by an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is part of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempt to pre­vent in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tions to check its abuses, par­tic­u­larly in the con­text of the bru­tal drug war,” said Phe­lim Kline of Hu­man Rights Watch. – As­so­ci­ated Press

Photo: EPA

Op­po­si­tion Sen. An­to­nio Tril­lanes IV shows a doc­u­ment af­ter fil­ing a plun­der com­plaint against then-Davao City Mayor Ro­drigo Duterte in a court in Que­zon city, Philip­pines, in May 2016.

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