Read carefully the reply of the Office of the Ombudsman to the announcement of Solicitor General…
Answering what he called “rehash” and “pure garbage” accusations by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV that he had bank transactions allegedly totaling in the billions, President Rodrigo Duterte declared he had “ordered” the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to release information about his net worth.
In a Feb. 17 speech in Baguio City, before members of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ‘67, Duterte said:
“Kaya ang gusto ko lang sabihin sa inyo (So I would like to tell you), because it’s politics again. It’s a rehash of what they, they, they… it is pure garbage. But you know, I’m president … I’ve ordered AMLC and everybody to give information sa, ano ang (on what’s)…what’s my worth in this, in terms of pesos in this planet.”
(Source: President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech at a dinner with PMA Class ‘67, Feb. 17, Baguio City, watch from 4:00 to 4:25)
The president’s pronouncement has two errors, one apparent and one not so.
First, releasing the president’s net worth is not among the list of powers granted to AMLC. A Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) briefer on the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001 lists the acts AMLC is authorized to do.
These include investigating suspicious transactions like money laundering and other violations of the AMLA, securing freeze orders and instituting civil forfeiture proceedings, and working with foreign countries in their own anti-money laundering operations.
Second, and more important, Duterte is himself responsible for publicly declaring his net worth.
All government officials, from barangay employees to the president, are required to file annual Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
This requirement is set by Article XI, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution itself, and by Republic Act No. 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Assets include cash on hand or in bank, investments, financial interests, and real property. Liabilities include all debt and outstanding loans. Assets minus liabilities equals a public official’s net worth.
As president, Duterte is required to submit his annual SALN to the National Office of the Ombudsman. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Multimillionaire Duterte says ‘I am not a millionaire’)
SALN declarations need to be accurate, else public officials risk facing grave consequences, at least based on a fairly recent precedent.
In 2012, the Senate acting as an impeachment court, removed then Chief Justice Renato Corona from office, for violating the Constitution by not declaring substantial bank deposits as assets in his SALN.
In explaining his vote to convict Corona, then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who presided the hearings, said:
His (Corona’s) deliberate act of excluding substantial assets from his sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth constitutes in my humble view as a member of this Court, a culpable violation of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.