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Duterte refuses call to open his bank accounts to scrutiny

Duterte refuses call to open his bank accounts to scrutiny
Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has accused Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (picture) of having large sums of undeclared money. Photo: Reuters

Duterte refuses call to open his bank accounts to scrutiny

MANILA — 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 on Wednesday (Sept 13) that if opposition Senator 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?”

Mr Trillanes first alleged Mr Duterte had unexplained wealth during the presidential campaign last year.

In February, he publicly raised the issue again because he said Mr Duterte had not yet revealed details of the more than 2 billion pesos (S$52.8 million) he allegedly kept in bank accounts as a former city mayor.

Mr Duterte inadvertently brought the issue back to public focus recently when he alleged Mr Trillanes has several undeclared joint bank accounts with unidentified Chinese men in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia and the United States.

Mr Trillanes denied it, and signed about a dozen waivers for the authorities to look into the alleged bank accounts and demanded that Mr Duterte do the same.

Mr Duterte went on a personal attack of Mr Trillanes, one of his harshest critics and a former navy officer once detained for a failed coup plot.

He mocked Mr 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.

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

Mr Trillanes is among key officials critical of some of Mr 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 for next year, although the decision can still be changed.

Critics were alarmed by the move that 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.

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