WHAT WENT BEFORE: Trillanes vs Duterte
In May 2016, days before the national elections, a face-off between the camps of then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV took place at the Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) branch on Julia Vargas Avenue in Pasig City.
It came after news came out on April 27 that Mr. Duterte, according to Trillanes, had at least P227 million in an account in the BPI-Julia Vargas branch that he did not declare in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Candidate Duterte earlier denied the existence of the account. “I will not play into their hands by issuing a waiver. The account is nonexistent,” he told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
Peter Laviña, his spokesperson then, also told the Inquirer: “Sorry, we cannot comment until we see it, but now I can tell you it’s a lie, a fabrication and black propaganda. Documents can be fabricated.”
2 BPI accounts
After some netizens posted online their copy of deposit transaction receipts for Duterte’s BPI account, he admitted that he had two accounts in BPI-Julia Vargas, one with P17,000 in deposits and another with less than P50,000.
He also said he had “less than P200 million” in the branch and that he did not declare it in his SALN in 2014 because he had already spent it. The money, he said, was a birthday gift from friends.
Trillanes dared candidate Duterte to sign a waiver that would allow the scrutiny of his bank accounts, and to file a libel case against him if the allegations were false.
The presidential candidate countered that Trillanes should execute an affidavit stating that he had records of the alleged bank accounts, and the manner and purpose with which the documents were obtained.
On April 30, Duterte’s political party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, insisted that the mayor had only two accounts in BPI-Julia Vargas with P17,000 and P27,000 in deposits, not “less than P200 million” as he had told reporters.
Supporters of Duterte and Trillanes trooped to the branch office on May 2, but no bank records were opened.
Instead of a waiver, Duterte’s lawyer, Salvador Panelo, requested BPI to look into his client’s records and to issue a certification that “at no time since the opening of the account has there been P211 million whether singly, collectively or cumulatively deposited to his bank account.”
The bank, however, asked for seven days to respond to Panelo’s request. Panelo said a bank official told him that this had to be carefully studied since it was a joint account.
Citing client confidentiality, BPI refused to comment further.
“Bank of the Philippine Islands will not make any comment as regards this morning’s discussion involving prominent politicians at our Julia Vargas, Pasig City, branch. To do so would be against the basic banking principles of client confidentiality,” BPI said in a statement.
The bank also denied it was the source of Trillanes’ information about the alleged Duterte bank accounts.
Much earlier, on March 11, Duterte and his then running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, signed a “waiver” allowing the opening of their bank accounts for public scrutiny.
But the document was “empty” and invalid, according to corporate lawyer Raul Palabrica, who writes a business column in the Inquirer. It was merely a pledge to open their bank accounts, not a waiver for opening bank accounts, Palabrica said.
“A waiver has to be expressed and specific. And it is directed to a particular bank or person,” he said.
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