‘Go to court or shut up,’ Duterte dares Trillanes
President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a counterattack against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, accusing the lawmaker of using his office for profit, and offering to resign if the senator could prove that he had hidden wealth.
Mr. Duterte has also defended his common-law wife, Cielito Avanceña, and daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, against Trillanes’ allegations that they had millions, explaining that they have their own sources of income.
“This I can say: If Trillanes can prove his allegation that I have amassed P2 billion illegally, or if that bank account under my name has a total deposit at one time of even just half a billion, I would resign as President immediately,” Mr. Duterte said in a video message late on Thursday.
Order to AMLC
Speaking to graduates of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City on Friday, Mr. Duterte said he had ordered the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to provide information about how much he was worth.
“I’ve ordered the AMLC and everybody to give information, what’s my worth, in terms of pesos, [on] this planet so that I would not embarrass you,” Mr. Duterte said.
He reiterated his campaign promise that he would resign if he or his family would be linked to corruption.
In his video message on Thursday, Mr. Duterte said Trillanes should go to court if he had a case, or shut up if he had nothing new to say.
“This is actually an old and rehashed issue,” Mr. Duterte said, adding that the Filipinos still voted him into power even if Trillanes made his allegations during the campaign last year.
“The people have already spoken. They have placed me in office with 16 million votes,” he said.
Trillanes, an opposition senator, refreshed his allegations on Thursday, telling a news conference that he was raising the issue again because Mr. Duterte had not yet disclosed details of more than P2 billion he kept in bank accounts from 2006 to 2015 as mayor of Davao City.
He also showed documents purportedly showing that Avanceña had banking transactions amounting to P200 million from 2004 to 2009, and that Avanceña, Mr. Duterte and his three children by his former wife, Elizabeth Zimmerman, received P120 million from businessman Sammy Uy, a campaign contributor, from 2011 to 2013.
Trillanes, one of Mr. Duterte’s harshest critics and a former Philippine Navy officer once detained for a failed coup against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, dared Mr. Duterte to publicly release details of his bank accounts.
He said he would resign if Mr. Duterte could disprove the allegations.
At the height of the controversy last year, lawyer Salvador Panelo, now the President’s chief legal counsel, said Mr. Duterte had authorized him to request the bank to open the account but that bank officials told him it would take seven days to study the request.
Trillanes said on Thursday that the account had never been opened to scrutiny.
“I know he will not release [his bank records] and he will not accept my challenge because it will be proven that he is really a corrupt official,” Trillanes said.
Mr. Duterte angrily reacted to the allegations, belittling Trillanes’ offer to resign and saying the senator had nothing to lose from leaving office.
Trillanes has his own questionable activities, Mr. Duterte said.
“It is known in the Senate that Trillanes uses his office to ask for retainers and this has become a lucrative business for him,” the President said, without mentioning specifics.
Trillanes’ accounting is “amusing,” Mr. Duterte said, pointing out that the senator included even the day-to-day banking transactions of Avanceña, showing his “ignorance” of banking.
Avanceña has a donut business and she supplies meat to five shopping malls in Davao City, Mr. Duterte said.
“That’s how her money grew. She is diligent. Not like you, ambitious,” he said, referring to Trillanes.
As for his daughter Sara, Mr. Duterte said that she is a lawyer and “earns from this and that and she has clients who actually pay for her services and not from illegal retainers [that] Trillanes is so used to.”
Mr. Duterte taunted Trillanes over the failed mutiny against Arroyo.
“You staged a mutiny, it turned out you had no balls, throwing your hands in the air immediately when the cops arrived. For shame!” the President said.
Mr. Duterte said his family was not poor, as his father, a former provincial governor, left his children an inheritance.
Then, addressing Trillanes again, he said: “What was left with you? Just air and bluster. You’re a bandit, to tell the truth.”
Trillanes ignored Mr. Duterte’s “insults.”
“I will not respond to them. I will not let him deviate from the issue,” he said in a statement on Friday.
But he reminded Mr. Duterte that he filed a complaint for plunder against him in the Office of the Ombudsman last year.
“For the information of everyone, I filed a plunder case against President Duterte back in May 2016, and I used as evidence the documents I have on his questionable bank transactions,” Trillanes said, urging the Ombudsman to “speed up the investigation.”
Mr. Duterte, he said, should publicly release details of his bank accounts if he has nothing to hide.
“President Duterte, you talk too much. If you are really not hiding any ill-gotten wealth, accept my challenge and open the transaction history of your bank accounts,” he said. —WITH REPORTS FROM TARRA QUISMUNDO AND AP