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Secret bank account linked to Duterte a game-changer?

28 April 2016

Deposit confirms Duterte account. Photo: Ellen Tordesillas
Rodrigo Duterte had been leading public opinion surveys, even widening his lead over the field by capturing 33 per cent in the latest poll of the Social Weather Stations, a nine-point lead over second-placer Grace Poe-Llamazares.
This, despite public uproar against his joking about wanting to be first to rape an Australian who died in a Davao City hostage incident in 1989, which his opponents wished would tarnish his appeal.
Gimmicks such as signing an art board with his vice presidential candidate Alan Cayetano pledging to waive their right to keep their bank accounts from scrutiny under the bank secrecy law – and daring the other candidates to follow suit –were lapped up by his supporters.
Last April 27, however, his dare appears to have put his popularity to the test just two weeks before election day on May 9. Vice presidential candidate Antonio Trillanes accused him of accepting P211 million in deposits on his birthday in 2014 through a bank account he jointly held with his daughter Sara.
Trillanes said Duterte did not include the amount in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, which showed the Davao City mayor only had Php21.9 million in net assets.
When Trillanes challenged Duterte to waive his right to bank secrecy, Duterte refused, saying the accusation was fabricated.
“I will make it difficult for him,” Duterte said, “I will not play into his game.”
Trillanes answered with a threat to expose more such secret accounts.
While Duterte has remained aggresive, the tide in the comment section of major newspapers that carried the story is turning; those bashing Duterte appeared to have outgunned the normally dominant Duterte supporters.
Counter-propaganda against Trillanes that appeared on  social media was weak.
A photo showing a San Miguel Corporation check for Php500 million payable to Trillanes was quickly umasked as a fake when San Miguel denied it issued that check, and Banco de Oro said the account number in the check did not exist in its system.
Another social media offensive originating from Duterte’s spokesman Peter Lavina was a photo of Duterte with his vice presidential bet Alan Peter Cayetano, showing off the art board they signed as a pledge to waive their right against scrutiny of their bank accounts.
But this raised even another question: If there is such a waiver, why then is  Duterte refusing to open the account that Trillanes specified?
Chatter inside pro-Duterte Facebook pages also centered on Trilanes’ revelation -- mostly how to answer them.
The latest center of such attention was an April 28 Facebook post by journalist Ellen Tordesillas, who said her friend deposited Php 500 in the account cited by Trillanes. The deposit slip confirmed not just the existence of the account, but that it was owned by the Dutertes.
Thus, when asked about this by reporters during a campaign trip to Balanga, Bataan, the same day, Duterte said he indeed had accounts in the Pasig branch of the Bank of the Philippine Islands that Trillanes identified. But he said the deposits in these accounts were no more than Php50.000 and Php17,000.
Unable to deny the existence of the account, Duterte's camp was telling its followers the deposits in those accounts were just Php500 and less than Php50,000 -- not the millions that Trillanes mentioned.
Instead of opening the account and proving that Trillianes was a liar -- that his SALN was an honest statement of his net worth -- Duterte’s attitude appears to be a reminder of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
After Trillanes initiated the Senate investigation into the billion-peso anomalies in Makati, Binay refused to attend the hearings. Instead, he answered the charges in press conferences where reporters were not allowed to ask questions. With the hearings broadcast live on radio and television, Binay is now trailing in the surveys.
But Binay had choice words for his rivals: “Kung wala tayong itinatago, kung lahat tayo ay naniniwala na dapat ihayag natin ang lahat sa ating mga kababayan, kung lahat tayo nagsasabi na pabor tayo sa freedom of information, pirmahan ninyo ang waiver. Magpa-AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) din kayo.”
Other presidential aspirants have jumped into the fray.
Poe, whom Duterte’s camp accused of instigating Trillanes to make the accusations (because she was Trillanes’ choice of president), said: “The easiest way to do it is for him to open the account for public scrutiny. He was the first to dare his rivals to sign a waiver. He said he was willing to die for the country, this is one of the ways of doing it.”
Administration candidate Mar Roxas offered to sign his own waiver, and challenged Duterte to prove that his hands were not as dirty as his mouth.
On April 24, in the last of three presidential debates, Roxas dared Duterte to quit the race if he proved that the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. had brought its services to Davao City. He was referring to Duterte’s claims that Philhealth had not reached his city.
The next day, Duterte dismissed as fake the documents showing that Philhealth had 1.4 members in his city and paid billions of pesos for their hospitalization.
Trillanes, for his part, issued his own challenge to Duterte. If his accusations are proven false, he would withdraw from his own race and resign as senator. But if it is true, then Duterte should withdraw from the race.

(Note: this is a running story so check for updates)

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