MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte respects a reported investigation being conducted by an anti-graft agency of allegations that he has undeclared wealth hidden in bank accounts, his spokesman said Wednesday, adding “the president has nothing to hide.”
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella issued the statement in reaction to news reports that the Ombudsman, a key government anti-graft agency, has been looking into the allegations against Duterte since last year and has obtained bank records showing large amounts of transactions in past years.
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.
The ABS-CBN TV network cited Deputy Ombudsman Arthur 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.
“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.”
Abella said Duterte “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,” adding, “the president has nothing to hide.”
The news reports reignited calls by opposition groups and a lawmaker for Duterte to sign a bank secrecy waiver to allow investigators to look into his bank records.
Earlier this month, Duterte refused a demand by his most vocal critic, opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, to publicly release details of his bank accounts. Duterte said, “You must be stupid. … Why would I give you the pleasure?”
Trillanes 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 launched a personal attack against Trillanes, a former navy officer once detained for a failed coup plot. He mocked Trillanes for losing the vice presidential race last year and alleged that the senator keeps funds in his bank accounts in amounts just below the level that could spark a Central Bank inquiry.