Escudero: Probe of bank accounts needs Duterte’s cooperation
Sen. Francis Escudero raised the question on Monday as he chairs the committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies that Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV asked to investigate Mr. Duterte and his daughter’s alleged unexplained wealth.
In a text message, Escudero said he was not optimistic about the outcome, if ever, of an inquiry into the President’s bank accounts without the cooperation of the depositors. “Without it, we will always be hitting a wall because of the bank secrecy law.”
The Senate on Monday referred the Trillanes resolution to the blue ribbon committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, as well as to the banks committee.
Trillanes said he would move upon his return from the United States for his resolution to be “primarily” referred to the banks committee.
In an interview with reporters in Davao City, Sara Duterte said she was willing to appear in the Senate if called to testify.
In a statement, the mayor said Trillanes filed the resolution because he could not file charges in court. “The senator cannot file a case because there is no basis for it.”
‘Trillanes is lying’
She denied Trillanes’ claim that she and her father had P100 million in joint deposits not reflected in their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs). “I have said this before and I am saying it again—Trillanes is lying.”
Trillanes on Monday filed Resolution No. 602 that directed the committee on banks to inquire whether Mr. Duterte and Sara Duterte violated the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla).
He said an inquiry was in order based on the Jan. 21 report of Vera Files that claimed Mr. Duterte and his daughter had failed to fully disclose in their SALNs joint deposits and investments in Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), which exceeded P100 million in some years between 2006 and 2014.
Citing the report, Trillanes said the President and Sara had accounts with the BPI branch in Greenhills-Edsa and the BPI Julia Vargas branch in Pasig City.
These included a P48.17-million placement in 2006 that grew to P55.13 million by 2013; a P40.55-million investment in 2009 that stood at P41.72 million in 2013; about $220,000, roughly P10 million, from 2006 to 2012; the purchase of P80 million in insurance policies in 2014; and a P16.85-million investment in 2014.
Open to probe
Trillanes noted that Mr. Duterte told the media on Jan. 24 that he was open to any investigation by Congress following the Vera Files report.
Vera Files has said its report is based on bank records that Trillanes submitted to the Senate last Oct. 3 after he delivered a privilege speech claiming that the President had more than P2.2 billion in questionable bank transactions.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III initially said the Senate was not the body to investigate Trillanes’ resolution.
In his text message hours before he spoke to the media, Pimentel said Trillanes should file a case in the proper body if he had evidence against Mr. Duterte.
But Pimentel later told reporters that Trillanes’ resolution would be included in the reference of business and would be referred to the proper committee.
Trillanes said an investigation of the President’s bank accounts “would just be part of the oversight functions of the Senate.”
“Senator Pimentel, even as Senate President, has no power to disallow its referral. He immediately got nervous for his master,” he said of the Senate President.
To Trillanes’ quip about him, Pimentel said: “I don’t know if my voice is quivering right now, I can be nervous but I don’t think I am. Anyway, his reaction is just right because he’s also obsessed with the issue. What if this issue is not talked about, his hand might also quiver.”
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she was one with “growing sentiment of the people” that the President sign a bank waiver so that his bank records could be opened.
Hontiveros said Mr. Duterte’s refusal to sign a waiver could give people reason to think there was something he did not want to be seen.
Hontiveros said she was open to a Senate inquiry into the Chief Executive’s bank accounts.
Any investigation into violations of Amla could be done if it involved a predicate crime like involvement in drugs, said Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Otherwise, he said, the inquiry will violate the bank secrecy law.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.