PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday branded his constant critic Senator Antonio Trillanes IV “a hopeless person,” after he took seriously a joke about committing graft.
In a speech during his first visit to the Philippine Stock Exchange in Makati, Duterte said his critics were getting their material from Trillanes, who had accused him of illegally amassing millions of pesos in the heat of the 2016 presidential campaign.
“They’re all trash. They’re doing a Trillanes—who himself is a hopeless person,” Duterte said.
Once again referring to Trillanes’ claims, Duterte said he will resign if Trillanes can prove he had P211 million in undeclared funds in a Bank of the Philippine Islands account.
“I said that’s not true. Even if you search the entire country, and you find even just half of that amount, I will step down,” Duterte said in Filipino.
During the campaign, Duterte agreed to open his account in a bid to debunk the Trillanes’ allegation—on the condition that the senator must present an affidavit on his allegations and identify his sources.
In a Palace news briefing, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella defended Duterte from Trillanes, who pushed the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate Duterte following his supposed “admission” of corruption as grounds.
“I think the senator seems to lack a sense of humor. It was said in jest, obviously,” Abella said.
Earlier in the day, Trillanes sent an excerpt of Duterte’s speech during the 140th founding anniversary of the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association last month, in which Duterte apparently said in jest that while he detested corruption, he had also committed such dishonest deeds by stealing many things in the past—then said it he had spent it all.
“I hate corruption. Hindi ako nagmamalinis. Marami rin akong nanakaw pero naubos na, so wala na, [I’m not trying to look clean. I’ve stolen a lot too, but I’ve spent it all and it’s gone]” Duterte said on June 28.
For Trillanes, Duterte’s pronouncements were enough proof of corruption.
“This admission confirms my corruption allegation against Duterte. I have filed a case against him before the Ombudsman, along with the necessary evidence to support the case. This admission should be a reason to expedite the investigation,” Trillanes said.
In a May 5, 2016 complaint, Trillanes accused Duterte of having P2.4 billion worth of bank deposits, which he claims could have sourced from the salaries of 11,000 ghost employees in Davao.
The complaint also alleges that Duterte had committed malversation of public funds and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In his complaint, Trillanes said he based his allegations on a Commission on Audit report in 2015 questioning the recruitment of 11,000 contractual workers that cost the Davao City government some P708 million in 2014.
The Duterte camp called Trillanes a congenital liar and a publicity hound.
Apart from plunder, Duterte should also be held liable for malversation of public funds and graft for “unlawful activities” or “predicate crimes” as provided for in the Anti-Money Laundering Act, or Republic Act 9160 for alleged hidden peso and dollar accounts at the BPI-Julia Vargas branch, Trillanes said.
But Duterte’s camp said the baseless accusation that the President has hidden wealth in a leading bank and not reported in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth proved to be a dud. No less than the bank issued the denial, they added.
Duterte said he does not know Joseph de Mesa, the supposed source of information about the alleged P211-million undeclared money in BPI Julia Vargas branch. He hinted that Joseph de Mesa is fictitious—an invention of Trillanes and those who are behind the avalanche of dirty tactics and black propaganda hurled at him.
Because Trillanes is a liar, he said, people and the media should not take the information that he peddles seriously.
Duterte also described Trillanes, who led two failed coups before being elected senator, as an ingrate, whose education at the Philippine Military Academy was paid for with the money of the Filipino people.
Senator Nancy Binay on Tuesday said she opted not to listen to Trillanes because this would be “a waste of time.”
Trillanes earlier described the Senate as “lapdogs” of the Duterte administration because they were afraid to disagree with Duterte.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said he is considering filing an ethics complaint against Trillanes, but would reconsider if Trillanes apologizes. With PNA
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