April 28, 2016

The Duterte-Trillanes #BangkoSerye – Trillanes Talks – Ep. 1, Apr. 27

Nakakalito na ba? Let's list down all the major events of the Duterte-Trillanes BangkoSerye.

Early morning, April 27: Trillanes accuses Duterte

Last night, Senator Antonio Trillanes said Duterte didn’t declare P211 million in his SALN [Inquirer]. To back claim, Trillanes provided the Inquirer with a flimsily-prepared spreadsheet containing bank transaction information, as shown below.

The transactions, in Philippine Pesos,  are as follows:

  • 16.8 million
  • 16.8 million
  • 55.1 million
  • 41.7 million
  • 20 million
  • 20 million
  • 20 million
  • 20 million
  • 16.9 million
  • 0.5 million

The first 9 transactions involve a Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) account and the last involves a Banco de Oror (BDO) account. Both are joint accounts under the names of Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his daughter, Sara Zimmerman Duterte.

Rody Duterte (L) and daughter Sara (R)
Now, assuming all the figures shown in the image above are deposits, the total would be P211 million. However, the image does not provide details on whether they are indeed deposits or if some of them are withdrawals. So Trillanes still has to show which ones are deposits and which ones are not.

Duterte can easily shrug off the issue in the legal sense, as our country’s fierce Bank Secrecy Laws [RA 1405, PDIC] provide him more than ample legal cover. Politically, however, he can't. For a man who topped the pre-electoral surveys for not having a single political corruption issue, this is a big deal.

Duterte can even sue Trillanes for violating RA 1405, since Trillanes provided the information through an interview and not during a senate session. Trillanes would have been able to invoke parliamentary immunity if he did the latter, but he didn’t, so that’s his problem.

Trillanes demanded Duterte to issue a bank secrecy waiver for these two bank accounts to allow full scrutiny.

Late Morning, April 27: Duterte camp replies

“The allegation is clearly a desperate ploy to bring down Mayor Duterte,” said Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, in response to the accusation [GMANews].

Cayetano is Duterte’s vice-presidential running mate.

Duterte said, “The account is not true and is just a fabrication… I will not play into their hands by issuing a waiver. The account is nonexistent.” [Inquirer]

Everyone knows that Duterte is not exactly the bastion of eloquence, so TP had to refer to Duterte spokesman Peter Tiu Laviña, for a more substantial reply.

Laviña said, “Sorry, we cannot comment until we see it, but now I can tell you it’s a lie, a fabrication and black propaganda. Documents can be fabricated.” [Inquirer]

Of course, even those who don’t support Duterte will agree that Trillanes’ words don’t really hold much water this past year or so, for the simple reason that he talks too often. Lahat na lang kasi, inaway ng mokong na ito.

Moreover, the spreadsheet Trillanes provided wasn’t even spell-checked. I mean, come on!

However, one of the main strengths of the Duterte campaign is the widespread perception, even among his opponents, that he has not been involved in any corruption case. That reason alone shocked the sway voters who decided to jump to the Duterte boat in the past couple of months.

Early Afternoon, April 27: March #PiliPinasDebates2016 Waiver

Let’s have a quick recap:
  • Trillanes says Duterte has undeclared transactions with BPI and BDO, info is incomplete.
  • Duterte spokesman denied allegations, said Trillanes’ documents are fabricated.
  • Duterte camp declined to sign a waiver for those two bank accounts.

Now, it can be recalled that Duterte signed a Bank Secrecy waiver sometime in March 2016, right before the Cebu Presidential Debates, as shown below.

At first, it only looks like a pledge to waive bank secrecy and not an actual waiver.

A lawyer from the Duterte-Cayetano (DuCay) camp, whose identity shall not be released for lack of authority to comment on the issue, said, “It's a waiver, TP. Look at the last sentence before the signatures. I hereby pledge to waive all my rights and privileges under the Bank Secrecy Law. Trust me, I know the intent of that document.”

The DuCay attorney is right, zooming into the bottom part, we can see that the fine print reads, “This pledge and my signature below waives all rights and privileges to bank secrecy under the Bank Secrecy Law. (SGD Rodrigo Duterte).”

The DuCay attorney also confirmed that the said document has been deposited to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Ok, so this actually looks like a waiver. However, veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona pointed out that the document was neither notarized nor signed under oath. Espina-Varona provided TP with a sample waiver signed by VP Candidate Chiz Escudero:

Chiz Escudero's Bank Secrecy Waiver per SALN

Late Afternoon, April 27: Admissibility of March Waiver

DuCay Camp: It’s admissible

As for the notarization, that’s easy to deal with, as the DuCay attorney presumably has the authority to notarize documents. The oath issue, however, still stands.

So TP asked the DuCay attorney.

The DuCay attorney quoted RA 1405 Sec. 2 [LawPhil]which reads:

SECTION 2. All deposits... are hereby considered as of an absolutely confidential nature and may not be examined...  except upon written permission of the depositor.”

The DuCay attorney said, “The law only requires a written permission. It does not require oath.”

“The waiver of Sen. Chiz Escudero is for the Ombudsman only. For Duterte-Cayetano, it’s a blanket waiver,” the DuCay attorney added.

Okay, so the March 2016 waiver, in as far as the DuCay camp is concerned, is admissible.

Inquirer’s Atty. Palabrica: it’s not admissible

Now, it’s time to hear from a (presumably) disinterested party.

Raul Palabrica, a corporate lawyer, who writes about business-related issues in a column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, was asked to comment on DuCay’s March Waiver [Inquirer].

Atty. Palabrica is also an Inquirer Columnist

Palabrica said, “It is only a pledge to open their bank accounts.”

“To meet the requirements of the Bank Secrecy Law, (a waiver) should be first: written. It should be addressed to the bank. And it should be told to the bank what exactly (is being waived),” Palabrica added.

Palabrica said, “What is being waived here is a right of privacy. And a right of privacy is considered sacred. Therefore any exception to the rule of the right of privacy must be clear and unequivocal.”

In short, Palabrica said a valid waiver needs 3 elements:

  1. Written permission
  2. Addressed to a bank
  3. Specification of what is to be waived.

Admissible or Inadmissible?

Palabrica said it’s just a pledge, but I have reason to believe that he failed to see the fine print on the March waiver, as TP initially missed it too.

Now, if we will examine the waiver closely, we can observe these three things:
  1. With consideration to the fine print, it is indeed a written permission.
  2. It is a blanket waiver, so it is addressed to all banks in the country.
  3. It is a blanket waiver, so covers all bank transactions of any kind.

I am not a lawyer, but I believe that Palabrica wanted greater specificity because the March DuCay Waiver is unprecedented in Philippine History.

In short, it should be valid and admissible.

At this point, let’s ask:
Despite Trillanes’ awareness of the March waiver’s existence, why did he fail to use the March Waiver to pry further into the bank accounts? The shoddy spreadsheet he provided lacks a lot of details, so why didn’t he use the waiver to find out more?

The answer is not up to TP.

Trillanes has to do yet another round of talking.

Meanwhile, the Duterte camp has to do some explaining too, not for Trillanes’ sake, but for the sake of the 32 million Filipinos who support #Duterte2016. (ThinkingPinoy)

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