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Rough Cuts: Insinuating a violation of the Constitution

The series of reports by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) on the continuous increase in the wealth of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his children Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and former Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, has created an uproar especially among the opposition and other sectors critical of the President.

According to the PCIJ reports the President’s wealth accumulated from about a million pesos as of June 1998 to P28.54 million as of end of 2017. The period covered, according to the PCIJ reports, is about 19 years of the President’s government service. Therefore, we estimate that on the average, the President’s wealth has increased by about a million pesos annually.

Of course it is no secret that the President’s family used to be a logging concessionaire before. And they operate one of the largest ice plants in the city which closed down only late in the 80’s. However, the land where the plant once stood has remained the property of the family. And it is located in a prime place about 10 kilometers south of the city’s downtown along its main thoroughfare, the MacArthur National Highway. Having seen the property we could estimate its area to be between 4 to 5 thousand square meters. The area being a light industrial zone of the city, could possibly pitch between P100 million to P150 million by now and still rising. And we are certain it is not the only property that the parents of the President could have left him and their other children. Besides, the President did not hide his investments in some business ventures where his money continues to earn returns even if he is not actively involved in the corporate operation.

On the other hand the PCIJ reported that Mayor Sara’s combined wealth with husband Manases Carpio jumped from P11 million in 2007 to P44 million in 2017. We know as well that the family of the mayor’s husband own blocks of land in the city’s peripheral commercial district which by now may have already been passed on to the heirs including young lawyer Mans. And from the looks of it, the couple’s law firm could be awash with big-time clients. What with the family names of the firm’s main partners — Carpio and Duterte! We are also certain the two have invested their income in real estate, as well as in stocks and securities which could have already earned them millions of pesos since they got married.

Meanwhile, the PCIJ also reported former VM Pulong’s wealth jumped from P11 million in 2007 to P27 million in 2017. That is about P16 million up in the former VM’s wealth. Again, Pulong is his parent’s son. Hence, he could be beneficiary of support from his parents in his own business ventures. And we personally know he is into partnership with well-meaning businessmen in Davao City in the dealership of second hand vehicles which is a thriving trade in Davao City and the rest of the country. Pulong is also no green horn in stocks investing. If he bought 100 thousand shares of stocks in 2007 at P4.50/share from a known holding company, the same stocks now are valued at P60/share. That would be a whopping P6 million in Pulong’s wealth. And if the former vice mayor had P11 million in assets in 2007 an investment of P450,000 in stocks during that time was just peanut.

Yes, the PCIJ reports were factual because the data were culled from the Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net worth of the three Dutertes. Meaning, the assets and liabilities were reported and submitted to the proper offices in compliance with the Constitutional mandate for those who are in the government service.

So, is the President, his daughter Sara, and son Pulong compliant with the Constitution? According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, they are. The SALNs of the three are documentary proof of their faithful compliance.

Apparently, according to Panelo, the PCIJ reports were insinuating that the Dutertes acquired their wealth through illegal means and that these were attained because of the influence that their respective offices wield.

The PCIJ reports also seemingly want to instill in the readers’ minds that the President and other officials of government are obligated to explain in detail how they got their wealth even those acquired outside of office. So, the next question is, “Are they?”

The Constitution, according to Panelo, does not mandate for such. That is why he is challenging those who subscribe to the insinuations in the PCIJ reports to file charges against the President, his daughter Sara and son Pulong. He said that such action will settle once and for all, whether the Dutertes really amassed wealth illegally or not.

And perhaps it will even settle the long-standing allegations of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV that the Dutertes are maintaining multi-billion peso accounts in the banks.

Yes, indeed, why not the PCIJ and all those who believe in their report file charges in the appropriate venue to let out the truth and at the same time test the independence of the judiciary?

Why let it perpetuate in the media domain if the reports’ intention is not to put the Dutertes in trial by public opinion?

That, without doubt, would be fair to the President and his family as well as to the PCIJ whom the President is extremely doubtful as to its motives in crafting the insinuation using the mass media as willing vehicle.

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