May 19, 2017

Ill-gotten wealth? Analyzing Rappler’s “Rodrigo Duterte's 386 P. Guevarra Property”

Duterte's Alleged San Juan Property (Courtesy: Rappler)

[UPDATED 19 May 2017] Rappler's 19 May 2017 article "How Duterte's wealth in 1st 6 months compares with Aquino's" is basically a one-thousand-word essay accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of amassing ill-gotten wealth while Rappler conveniently ignores publicly available facts.

In that article, Ressa's minion Michael Bueza, the same guy who murdered PNP's crime stats, said compared changes in Duterte's SALN to that of Aquino.

Aside from the really, really bad math, I cannot for the life of me understand why such an analysis is even relevant when Duterte himself said recently that the P3-million jump in his net worth is from amount ABS-CBN owes him after the latter did not air his campaign ads [GMA].

But what's most striking in the entire tinapa-wrapper of an article is the mention of a certain alleged Duterte-owned San Juan property, which Rappler has extensively, though amateurishly, discussed in the May 2016 article "Rodrigo Duterte's 386 P. Guevarra Property"

Let me quote that part of May 19 article:
Curiously, not declared in all of his SALNs was a property in 386 P. Guevara Street in San Juan City. Duterte reportedly bought the said townhouse for his son Sebastian in 2001, when the President was then Davao City congressman.
You see, I have already definitively debunked this theory last year, and let me show you what I wrote back then .

Geez, Rapplerettes never learn.

That San Juan Townhouse

Journalists are expected to provide evidence to back their claims and to take every step possible to minimize the risk of misunderstanding information. This is the same reason why news articles are separated from opinion-editorial pieces. News articles from trustworthy sources should contain solid evidence from both sides and should contain little to no speculation.

Let's analyze this particular Rappler article and see if it passes those standards.

According to the 04 May 2016 Rappler article entitled “Rodrigo Duterte's 386 P. Guevarra property”:
  1. Duterte and co-accountholder Sara, his daughter, used 386 P. Guevarra St as the home address for the BPI Julia Vargas account. P Guevarra is a street in the Municipality of San Juan in Metro Manila, so let’s call this property the “San Juan House”
  2. Duterte’s San Juan House property was not included in his current and past SALNs.
  3. A source had confirmed that Duterte had indeed it sometime between 1998 to 2001 for P 1.5 million.
  4. Property was registered under Sebastian’s name. He turned 18 in 2006.
  5. 2012 SALN Guidelines require SALN declarations shall include the properties, liabilities, business interests, and financial connections "of the declarant, his/her spouse and unmarried children below 18 years of age living in his/her household."
  6. Though Sebastian was probably still being supported by his father from 2001 to 2005, he was living away and was not part of his father’s household then. Rappler speculates this allowed Duterte to exclude the property in his SALNs.
  7. Is he off the hook, his critics are asking.

SALN Guidelines

Now, let’s analyze.

ThinkingPinoy questions Rappler’s use of 2012 SALN Guidelines to dictate what should be done on SALNs from 2004 to 2006. This is because the 1987 Constitution itself prohibits the creation of ex post facto laws [Article III, Sec. 22].

This is a little disturbing because new SALN forms were issued in 2011 [PCIJ], and the next revision was in 2013, in response to the loopholes found during the late CJ Corona’s impeachment trial [Rappler].

In short, Rappler based the 2006 requirements on guidelines that may have applied only to the years 2011 and 2012. To make matter worse, SALN guidelines were also changed in 2008 [GMA].

Two strikes for Rappler.

That’s some shoddy research on Rappler’s part.

Age of Majority

Rappler said the 386 P Guevarra property should have been in Duterte’s pre-2007 SALNs, as Sebastian turned 18 only in 2006. But is that claim correct?

ThinkingPinoy researched Sebastian’s current age. It turned out to be 28 years as of 30 April 2016 [Inquirer]. This implies that his actual birthdate is between 01 May 1987 and 30 April 1988. But we do not need to know his actual birthdate: we only need to know if he was born on or before 31 December (I’ll tell you why later).

Let’s take a look at this Instagram photo posted on 02 November 2015 by his sister Sara Duterte:

As we can see, the first comment shows his sister Sara greeting him a happy birthday, implying that his birthday was around November 2. Recalling that his birthday falls between 01 May 1987 and 30 April 1988, we can infer that he was born in 1987.

Thus, he turned 18 sometime between mid-October 2005 and mid-November 2005. After all, it would have been absurd for his sister, who lives in the same city, to greet him too early or too late.

That is, Sebastian turned 18 before 31 December 2005. Now, SALN requires information on the time of filing, so Duterte’s 2006 SALN can exclude the P Guevarra home.

Rappler has no copies of SALNs filed prior to 2004, so Rappler should have evaluated SALNs from 2004 and 2005 only, and not 2006.

After all, three counts of SALN under-declaration is worse than two.

Strike three for Rappler.

Now, looking at the 2004 and 2005 SALNs, it is clear that the San Juan House was not included, and this leads us to the next question…

Custody of Minor

Rappler itself reported that Duterte’s ex-wife Elizabeth Zimmerman filed for annulment in 1998, with the petition granted two years later in 2000 [Rappler].

Duterte never showed up in annulment hearings, though he was required to undergo a psych test, where he was found to be an antisocial narcissist [Rappler].

As a side note and before you get any crazy ideas, let’s make it clear that these findings are unreliable if used to gauge his actual personality. Why? Because if I want to divorce my wife, I will show the psychologist behaviour that will elicit the most apocalyptic diagnosis. The worse the diagnosis, the better, just want to get the whole thing over with.

For the annulment court, antisocial narcissism was enough.

At this point, we know Duterte was annulled in 2000, and with that court decision comes the determination of who gets child custody. Now, Sebastian was no more than 13 at that time. Adding the fact that the courts believe his dad is an antisocial narcissist, what are the odds that Duterte will be granted custody of a minor?

Evidence suggests that Elizabeth was given custody of Sebastian in 2000, or 2001 at the latest.

Of course, ThinkingPinoy concedes that custody could still have been given to Duterte, but Rappler should have  mentioned that, as they claim to have the court documents in the first place [Rappler].

That's strike four.
And just to make sure all bases are covered, some would argue that Sebastian attended high school in Davao while Zimmerman stayed in Manila in the middle of the annulment proceedings. However, the fact that Zimmerman still got to run in 2001 Davao Local Elections is proof that she still resided in Davao City post-annulment.
In the article in question, Rappler admitted that “Sebastian… was living away and was not part of his father’s household then.”

However, a trusting reader will most likely interpret this as “living in the San Juan House” as opposed to living in Davao, implying that Duterte skirted SALN guidelines to make him look cooler.

But with the presence of a better explanation (Zimmerman has custody), that wording proves to be woefully inadequate.

In short, Rappler’s twist on geography as basis SALN exclusion is suboptimal, to say the least.

Rappler strikes five times.

Ownership of Property and Bank Addresses

A source close to the Duterte family informed me that Sebastian acquired the property in June 2001 using his mother Elizabeth Zimmerman’s funds.

Now, the Duterte-Zimmerman annulment was in 2000, with Sebastian under Zimmerman’s custody. Adding Rappler's admission that Sebastian was "living away" from Duterte, the old man cannot consider Sebastian to be part of his household. 

Moreover, the San Juan property was bought using Zimmerman’s funds post-annulment, so it cannot be argued that it was Duterte’s riches that made it possible.

Assuming Duterte will be indicted for violating RA 6713 governing SALNs [DOLE], that would be more of a technicality than something caused by presence of an intention to amass ill-gotten wealth.

That’s just stupid. 

Rappler, that’s strike six.

San Juan as Address on Bank Account

Now, Rappler based their speculations on Duterte’s SALNs from 2004 to 2006. Despite ThinkingPinoy’s demonstration in previous section that the 2006 SALN is inapplicable, let’s just move forward with Rappler’s assumptions. Sige, partidahan na.

Based on his estimated birthday in the previous section, Sebastian was still 14 in 2001, so he should still be in high school at least up to 2002. Sebastian attended the Ateneo de Davao High School [Inquirer], so Zimmerman, who has custody over him, should also be residing in Davao City. Thus, neither Sebastian nor Zimmerman resided in the San Juan House.

Pinahiram kaya kay Duterte yung bahay?

Duterte was congressman from June 1998 to June 2001:those were the years when he presumably resided in Metro Manila. Adding the fact that the property was purchased on 13 June 2001 or about 2 weeks before his congressional term ends. That’s also more than a month and a half after the 2001 Davao Local Elections where Duterte (again) won the mayoralty.

What are the odds that Duterte lived there at all?

Nil. Zilch. Zero.

Let’s recap:
  1. Sebastian owns the San Juan house bought by Zimmerman. Sebastian was still a minor.
  2. Zimmerman had custody over Sebastian.
  3. Duterte never lived in that San Juan house.
  4. The ink on Zimmerman and Duterte’s 2000 annulment papers haven’t dried yet.
The best explanation would be that he used that address out of convenience, as Sara Zimmerman Duterte, the co-holder, would likely be given access to the property.

Rappler, that’s strike seven.

Why did TP bother to go through all this?

ThinkingPinoy does not expect every journalist to be as meticulous as he is. However, a basic tenet of journalistic ethics is incorporating both sides of the story in every piece of work (except for opinion pieces). That’s what Rappler didn’t do.

In the article “Rodrigo Duterte's 386 P. Guevarra Property”, Rappler published an article based solely on a leaked (and potentially illegally obtained) document and it didn’t bother to contact Duterte to ask for his side.

Whether Rappler’s alibi is lack of resources (which TP doubts, as TP lacks even more resources), or lack of IQ, the fact remains that their possible overzealousness to be at pace with their peers has made them forget crucial ethical considerations.

If Rappler just bothered to spare ten minutes to call the Duterte camp, it would not have made so many egregious errors in this article.

And Rappler, that’s strike eight. 

And you still wonder why Dutertards and Dutertrolls are so fiercely defensive? (TP)

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