President Duterte said the alleged hidden wealth of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV stashed in offshore accounts, including $75,000 in a Swiss bank, could have been money that the senator received from China several years ago while engaged in backdoor talks to resolve a dispute over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
Trillanes, an archcritic of the President, denied the allegation and said Mr. Duterte was “burying himself in lies” while trying to steer away from the issue of his son’s alleged involvement in a drug triad and smuggling in the Bureau of Customs (BOC).
The senator repeated his challenge to the President to sign a bank waiver as he had done.
In an interview broadcast late on Friday by state-run television PTV 4, Mr. Duterte said the information on Trillanes’ accounts that came from a foreign country indicated that those in a bank in Zurich, Switzerland, and in a Singapore bank were “single accounts without [a] codepositor.”
Mr. Duterte said the information included “existing slips as evidence of these two accounts and were acknowledged to be in existence.”
“I am sure his joint partner [in the accounts], they are dummies, the ones who gave money to him, or otherwise, what he earned from China,” Mr. Duterte said.
“He was going back and forth about eight or nine times to China, that was when his money accumulated. But that was the time that we lost the Scarborough Shoal,” he said.
Trillanes led backdoor negotiations with China during the Aquino administration.
He was accused of working for Beijing by then Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile with regard to the Panatag Shoal dispute.
Trillanes said the Office of the Ombudsman had already junked the case concerning Panatag Shoal, which he said was only based on Enrile’s “conspiracy theory.”
Philippine Navy and Chinese ships had a two-month standoff at the shoal in 2012.
Manila withdrew its ships on the understanding that Beijing would also pull out.
Instead, the Chinese continued to keep Filipino fishermen away from Panatag.
This prompted the Philippines to file in 2013 a case challenging China’s nine-dash-line claims in the South Chin a Sea.
Bilateral ties cooled even further after the Philippines won the case at the International Arbitral Tribunal. Relations warmed up and Filipino fishermen were allowed by the Chinese to fish outside the shoal after Mr. Duterte took office.
According to the President, the UBS bank account in Zurich numbered 927519921320 has a balance of $75,000 or some P3.8 million.
The DBS account in Singapore, numbered 178000296012, has a balance of “193,000,” Mr. Duterte said, without specifying the currency.
The two accounts are under the name “Antonio F. Trillanes” and the senator’s full name is Antonio Fuentes Trillanes, he said.
He noted that there was an Antonio Trillanes Jr. as well as Antonio Trillanes III, which meant the senator, who was Trillanes IV, could claim that the accounts did not belong to him.
“Maybe this is the reason why he is willing to sign a bank waiver because [there is] no ‘IV’ in the name of Antonio Trillanes. But the date of birth and account owner has been confirmed,” he said.
Trillanes also has accounts in Shanghai and Geneva; online savings accounts with ANZ bank and ABN AMRO; four savings accounts in Cayman Islands, which were supposedly opened online; and four accounts in the British Virgin Islands, according to Mr. Duterte.
“All foreign accounts of Trillanes have been flagged as having international transactions,” he said.
Trillanes said the Anti-Money Laundering Council had the power to access foreign accounts either held singly or jointly.
“That’s why I signed those waivers unconditionally. But [the President] is trying to change the subject again. Why does he not want to sign a waiver so that the truth about his [Bank of the Philippine Islands] accounts would be known?” he said.
Trial on the triad
“And why is he silent on Pulong’s [Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte] membership in a triad, which was why billions of pesos of ‘shabu’ (crystal meth) entered the country?” he added.
The vice mayor and his brother-in-law Manases Carpio, husband of the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, have denied links to the so-called Davao Group, which allegedly facilitated smuggling through the BOC.
The vice mayor also refused to show during a Senate hearing a tattoo on his back which Trillanes said was a sign of membership in the triad.
By Leila B. Salaverria