Duterte tries to link Inquirer owners to ex-official with huge salary

Lian Buan
President Rodrigo Duterte mistakenly identifies former Film Development Council of the Philippines chief Briccio Santos as a 'son-in-law' of the Inquirer's Prietos

RANT AGAINST INQUIRER. President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at the prosecutors' convention at a hotel in Clark, Angeles City, Pampanga on April 5, 2017, where he attacked anew broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer. Malacañang photo

ANGELES CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, April 5, continued his attack on the owners of a newspaper he believes to be critical of his administration, this time attempting to link them to a former government official who got an unusually high income in 2013.

In a speech before prosecutors in Clark Freeport, Duterte said former Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chief Briccio Santos earned P2.4 million in 2013, while his executive directors at the time, Teodoro Granados and Jose dela Rosa, earned P1.8 million and P1.7 million, respectively.

He alleged that Santos is a “son-in-law” of the Prietos, the owners of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) who were the subject of a scathing attack he made on owners of media organizations he has repeatedly accused of writing unfair reports on him and his administration.

Santos, however, is not a son-in-law of PDI’s Prietos. He is the husband of Mercedes “Peachy” Prieto, the aunt of PDI president Sandy Prieto-Romualdez.

Duterte criticized the high salaries and said the former FDCP officials even received more than “the country’s leading educators” such as former University of the Philippines (UP) president Alfredo Pascual and Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) president Antonio Kalaw Jr, who both earned P1.4 million.

Duterte cited a 2013 Commission on Audit report which tallies the salaries and allowances of government officials. He then used this to launch fresh attacks against PDI.

“Tapos ang Inquirer kung magsalita akala mo publisher na sila ng langit (And then Inquirer acts as if it’s the publisher of heaven),” Duterte said.

Countercheck

Rappler counterchecked the President’s statement with the reports uploaded on the COA website and found that Santos indeed earned P2.4 million in 2013 – his highest in the 6 years he chaired the FDCP during the Aquino administration.

Based on an examination of COA’s Report on Salaries and Allowances (ROSA), Santos usually received an annual income of between P1.5 million and P1.8 million. This is consistent with the annual income of his predecessor at the FDCP, Rolando Atienza, who earned P1.449 million in 2009.

The COA report also showed that Santos’ higher 2013 income was largely due to the drastic increase in his allowance. Santos got P811,000 in allowances in 2011, P400,000 in 2012, P269,000 in 2014, P365,000 in 2015, and P1.2 million in 2013.

There are many expenses which can be defined as allowance under COA standards, but one of them is travel allowance, which Duterte claims to be the cause of Santos’ higher income in 2013.

Whether the bloated income was irregular is not clear because COA makes a disclaimer that its report “does not render an opinion in the ROSA as a whole.”

“Any audit opinion shall form part of the opinion rendered by the auditor on the audited financial statements of their respective auditee agencies,” COA said.

The audit opinions are found in annual reports. The FDCP’s annual report for 2013 does not mention anything about Santos’ travel allowances. Instead, auditors noted “unnecessary consultancy expenses” and “unsuitable space” for the theater room in Baguio City being rented by the FDCP, among others.

Mile Long property

Duterte did not specify what actions he wanted to take in relation to Santos’ bloated salary.

Asked whether the President referred the matter to him for investigation, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who shared the stage with Duterte at the prosecutors’ convention, said, “Hindi naman, kasi, ewan ko, mayroong gustong magpa-investigate ‘doon sa One Mile Long sa Makati, parang government property daw ‘yun e.”

(Not really, because, I don’t know, someone wants to investigate the One Mile Long in Makati, that it’s supposedly a government property.)

He was referring to the Mile Long property in Makati City, the subject of contesting claims between the government and the Rufino and Prieto families. 

In September 2016, the Court of Appeals (CA) ruled in favor of the Rufinos and Prietos, junking the petition of the government to take possession of the property, according to a BusinessMirror report.

In his speech at the prosecutors’ convention, the President also attacked anew  ABS-CBN. He accused the television network and PDI of not delivering on their advertising deals with the Duterte campaign team during the 2016 elections. (READ: NUJP calls out Duterte’s ‘absolutely twisted’ rant against media)

“Sige sila, before the election, kita mo Inquirer pati itong ABS-CBN. Nagbayad kami, us asking for time, tinanggap nila ang pera but they never gave us the slot,” Duterte said.

(Before the elections, look at Inquirer and ABS-CBN. We paid, us asking for time, they accepted the money but they never gave us the slot.) 

The President was not available for clarificatory questions after his speech in Clark. Both PDI and ABS-CBN have not yet issued statements in response to Duterte’s latest tirades against them. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.