Palace says Duterte lie on Trillanes bank account an ‘isolated case’

Camille Elemia
Asked about the propriety of the Chief Executive giving out wrong information, President Spokesman Ernesto Abella says it was just President Rodrigo Duterte’s 'unorthodox' way of doing things

PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN. Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella explains to reporters President Rodrigo Duterte's 'lie' about the Singapore bank account of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on September 20, 2017. Photo by Camille Elemia/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Wednesday, September 20, defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s lie on the alleged offshore account of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

On Tuesday, September 19, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Trillanes’ claim that his account at DBS Bank Alexandra, Singapore branch was closed “needs to be verified.” Abella also earlier said that “the President already checked into the background of that particular account.”

But later on Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte himself admitted lying about the said bank account and said he just “invented” it.

Asked how to reconcile the two inconsistencies, Abella said he needs to “clarify” the matter with “pertinent sources,” including Duterte.

Abella said the incident was just an “isolated case” and would not affect the rest of the allegations against Trillanes.

“This is a particular case; isolated case – that’s what he was saying, that he intentionally did that. First and foremost, he comes out in the open. He does not hide that, so in other words he’s quite transparent about his intentions, quite transparent about his actions,” Abella told reporters ahead of the Senate hearing on the proposed 2018 budget of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

“You have to understand it in context which is like he was saying, well you have to go back to the transcript and the way he actually worded it. It wasn’t, it was, am not sure about the exact words but it was to entrap or something like that,” Abella said as he tried to explain Duterte’s action.

Duterte’s ‘own style’

Also asked about the propriety of the President giving out wrong information, Abella said that it is just Duterte’s “unorthodox” way of doing things.

He went on to say that Duterte’s unconventional ways have been “economically viable” for the country.

“Ma’am, may kanya-kanya pong style (everybody has his own style), as we very well know. The President is quite unorthodox, out of the box when he deals [with things]. On the other hand, it’s also pertinent to say his actions have so far have proved to be economically viable for the nation. We were recently voted top financially inclusive country in Asia,” he said.

Pinag-uusapan po natin siguro context noong pagkakasabi niya (Let’s talk about the context of what he said). You need to see it as a whole. You have to see the larger picture,” he said.

Aside from the DBS Bank, Trillanes also disproved the existence of his supposed account at the “Hongkong Shanghai Bank” Raffles Branch in Singapore.

There was no such bank in the official listing of Raffles City Tower. There was also no Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, or HSBC.

Aside from Singapore, Duterte alleged that Trillanes has bank accounts with Chinese nationals in Canada and New Zealand.

Trillanes expressed confidence that his visit to Singapore would prove that his other alleged offshore accounts were just manufactured by Duterte and his allies.

“So ibig sabihin dito, sa dalawang accounts dito sa Singapore, sablay; lahat ‘yan sablay. Ginawa nila yan. Inimbento nila yan. Maliwanag [yun],” Trillanes said on Tuesday.

(So this means, with the two fake accounts here in Singapore, all those accounts are fake. They just made it. They just invented it. It’s clear.)

Trillanes had consistently denied the allegations and submitted bank secrecy waivers to the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Office of the Ombudsman to scrutinize his local and foreign bank accounts.

Duterte has strongly refused to do the same amid allegations he has billions in secret bank accounts. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email