Mother of all waivers
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - September 12, 2017 - 4:00pm

There has been so much hullaballoo over signed waivers in the latest bitter exchange between President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. Actually, it is a repeat of the campaign issue towards the homestretch of the presidential elections in May last year. Trillanes, then as one of the six candidates for vice president, first hurled about multi-million peso bank deposits allegedly kept by the former Davao City Mayor who was then the front-running presidential bet.

Trillanes accused Mayor Duterte of alleged stashed money in secret bank accounts which were not reportedly declared in the latter’s submitted Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN). Although he dismissed these accusations against him, Mayor Duterte issued a signed waiver through his then private lawyer, Salvador Panelo who met with Trillanes to open the questioned private bank accounts in Pasig City.

A week before election day on May 10 last year, a fuming Mayor Duterte appeared in a full-blown press conference held at The Philippine Star office in Port Area, Manila to rebut all allegations aired in the media by Trillanes. That was the first time I saw up close and personal Mayor Duterte who came to The Star as the last of the five presidential candidates we interviewed about their respective government platform and vision for the country if elected into presidency.

For nearly two hours, Mayor Duterte had a monologue of his responses to campaign accusations thrown against him. The Mayor brought several bankbooks under his name and joint accounts with his children and showed them to media that no such multi-million peso nor dollar amounts ever entered into any of the deposits or withdrawal transactions.

Trillanes, however, was not convinced with the Mayor’s offered copies of his bankbooks and waiver. The Senator proceeded to file plunder charges against Mayor Duterte before the Ombudsman.

But apparently, the plunder charges and secret bank accounts failed to stop the majority win of Mayor Duterte, with 16 million votes. Trillanes lost the vice presidential race and placed 5th among the six candidates.

And the rest, as we say, is history. With three years still in his second and last term at the Senate, Trillanes returned to his lawmaking job. For a long while, he kept his guns salute until February this year when Trillanes revived the same allegations against President Duterte.

From out of the blue, the Senator called a press conference with his exposé against the Mayor with a new twist. He challenged President Duterte to make public his bank transactions from 2011 to 2015 which he calculated had accumulated value of P2 billion and allegedly it came from Davao City intelligence funds, campaign contributions, and other illegal activities.

It had been nine months, Trillanes counted, since he challenged Mayor Duterte to bare and admit his Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) accounts at the Julia Vargas, Ortigas in Pasig City branch. He rued nothing came out of it. He recalled Panelo merely promised the records would be released to the public after the elections. Now Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, Panelo’s promise did not happen.

Trillanes released to the media a list of alleged deposits under the name of President Duterte that were based on documents purportedly given to him by a “concerned citizen” named as Joseph De Mesa. The listing included those of the President’s three children – Paolo, Sebastian, and Sara – and his common-law wife, Honeylet Avancena. Among the significant transactions in the documents furnished by Trillanes included the campaign contribution of Davao City-based businessman identified as Sammy Uy who allegedly gave Mayor Duterte, Avancena, and his children a total of P120 million.

Trillanes swore he validated the information given him and expressed his confidence he will not be proven wrong.

Fast forward to today. Trillanes accused anew the Duterte father-and-son last week of having allegedly amassed ill-gotten wealth and insinuated part of it came from illegal drugs shipments that passed through Davao City ports in cahoots with their crony Chinoy businessmen. He threw these allegations in the course of the ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon committee public hearing on the P6.4 billion shabu shipment that slipped through the Bureau of Customs last May.

In yet another fiery retort, President Duterte described as “trash” all accusations against him by Trillanes. The visibly piqued President vowed “to destroy” the allegations of Trillanes who he claimed is the one with such unexplained wealth. Without going into specifics yet, the President accused the Senator of holding 12 bank deposits in joint accounts with unnamed partners in Australia, China, and the United States.

Trillanes decried the President’s exposé against him as nothing but lies and fabrication. The Senator challenged again the President to sign a waiver to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (ALMC) just like he did for supposed 12 bank accounts being linked to him.

The annual submission of SALN, on or before April 30 of each year, is mandated to all government workers under Republic Act 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

For the President and the Vice President, they must file their yearly SALN to the Office of the Ombudsman. Likewise, Governors and Mayors submit their individual SALNs to the Ombudsman. For the Cabinet officials, they must submit their SALN to the Office of the President. The Senators and members of the House of Representatives submit their SALNs to their respective secretariats.

In filling their SALN form, before a “declarant” inks his or her signature above his name, a paragraph before it states:

“I hereby authorize the Ombudsman or his/her duly authorized representative to obtain and secure from all appropriate agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue such documents that may show my assets, liabilities, net worth, business interests and financial connections, to include those of my spouse and unmarried children below 18 years of age, living with me in my household covering previous years to include the year I first assumed office in government.”

Very clearly, a signed SALN is as good as a bank waiver to any or all investigations into financial activities of any government official or employee. It is sort of mother of all waivers. Whatever waiver needed, it’s in the SALN already.

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