MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president says he will not cooperate in an investigation being done by a key anti-graft agency on his alleged undeclared wealth and warned he will personally bring one of its top officials to investigators for illegally disclosing confidential information about him.
In an expletives-laden outburst, President Rodrigo Duterte warned in a speech late Saturday of a “stalemate,” as he collides with the Ombudsman, an independent state agency that investigates officials facing corruption allegations. The Ombudsman said Friday it will continue an investigation involving the president and cannot be intimidated by him.
Duterte accused the anti-graft body of using “fabricated” documents in its investigation of his alleged unexplained wealth concealed in past bank accounts and of being plagued by corruption and said he would not submit to the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.
“I won’t submit to the jurisdiction because it’s a lousy thing,” Duterte said. He asked Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, who told reporters last week of his agency’s investigation involving Duterte, “to pray.”
“Carandang, you are holding a fabricated (document), to your sorrow, you will realize that,” the president said. “I can summon him because he committed a crime … he has to answer for this or else, I will go there and bring him to the NBI.”
Duterte was referring to the National Bureau of Investigation, Manila’s version of the FBI.
Duterte’s remarks differ from his spokesman, Ernesto Abella, who said last week that the president “respects the internal processes of the Office of the Ombudsman as an independent body and trusts its impartiality in the conduct of its fact-finding duty.”
Duterte has denied any wrongdoing and publicly vowed to resign if anybody can prove he or any of his children were involved in corruption. He won the presidency last year with a large margin on a vow to eradicate crime and corruption.
Duterte dared the chief of the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court chief justice, who is facing an impeachment bid by lawmakers, including the president’s allies in Congress, to resign simultaneously with him.
The ABS-CBN TV network cited Carandang as saying that his agency has received Duterte’s bank records from before he became president from 2006 to 2016 and that they show millions of pesos (millions of dollars) being transacted in joint accounts with his children.
Duterte’s bank records were provided by the government’s Anti-Money Laundering Council, ABS-CBN quoted Carandang as saying. The council is a financial intelligence agency that safeguards the privacy of bank accounts and aims to fight money laundering.
“We can confirm that we received bank transactions from AMLC,” Carandang was quoted by ABS-CBN as saying. “There were P40 millions … P50 million … there were many.”
Duterte read a statement saying Carandang has asked the Anti-Money Laundering Council to help investigate the allegations against him but stressed that the council has not provided the bank transaction records cited by Carandang as a basis for the investigation against the president.
Still reading the unspecified document, Duterte said his alleged bank accounts’ “outflows and inflows of funds were added together thus making the result total amounts wrong and misleading.”
The president’s most vocal critic, opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, first alleged that Duterte had unexplained wealth during the presidential campaign last year. In February, he raised the issue again, saying Duterte had not yet revealed details of more than 2 billion pesos ($39 million) he allegedly kept in bank accounts as a former city mayor.
Duterte inadvertently brought the issue back into public focus recently when he alleged Trillanes has several undeclared joint bank accounts with unidentified Chinese men in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia and the United States. Trillanes denied it and signed about a dozen waivers for authorities to look into the alleged accounts and demanded that Duterte do the same.
Duterte came under renewed criticism, however, when he publicly acknowledged that he just made up a bank account number supposedly belonging to Trillanes.
Duterte said the total worth of money in his bank accounts would not surpass 40 million pesos ($784,000), which includes funds from assets he inherited from his parents. His family also once operated a profitable ice plant and was involved in logging, Duterte said, adding that his wife had businesses to supplement his salary as Davao city mayor.
“I die with a bad reputation, fine. I die with a good (reputation), fine. But not corruption, I don’t have any of that,” he said.