MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte dared his critics to prove that his son, Paolo, is behind the smuggling of ukay-ukay or used clothing, as he claimed yet again that he will resign if his son is guilty.
In an event in Santo Tomas, Batangas, Duterte explained that Paolo is just helping his in-laws, described by Duterte as "Muslim vendors" selling jars and ukay-ukay in Davao.
"Pero kung 'yung mga jars, ukay-ukay, 'yung pinapalusot ng in-laws niya, if that is smuggling, then give me an accounting and I will resign," Duterte said at the inauguration of a solar factory in Santo Tomas.
(But if the jars, the used clothing, which his in-laws are bringing in, if that is smuggling, then give me an accounting and I will resign.
"I am not defending my son. Prove it, (if) it is true, and I will resign," the President stressed.
Duterte's son, Paolo, is the vice mayor of Davao City, where the President was mayor for more than two decades.
Documents from the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group and the National Bureau of Investigation in 2007, however, showed that the younger Duterte was responsible for the alleged smuggling of luxury vehicles, rice, sugar, and used clothes into the city. (READ: Paolo Duterte a 'smuggler'? Trillanes releases documents anew)
Duterte denies 'P11 billion'
A day before President Duterte spoke, a customs broker and fixer claimed that he personally paid at least P5 million ($97,600) to Paolo's "friend" and "handler" to speed up transactions.
One of Duterte's fiercest critics, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, cited this as evidence that Paolo is behind smuggling.
Duterte ally Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, however, said in a Rappler Talk interview that there is no proof to back this claim.
On Wednesday, Duterte also stressed that he is not hiding P11 billion ($214.6 million) in his bank accounts, as his critics claim.
"They are allowed to open our accounts, at kung totoo 'yung may pera na sobra-sobra ako – sinabi nila sa election na meron akong...P11 billion – my God, you can have my resignation tomorrow. I will step down. Wala akong pera na ganu'n," the President said.
(They are allowed to open our accounts, and if it is true that I have so much money – they said during the elections that I have P11 billion – my God, you can have my resignation tomorrow. I will step down. I don't have that money.) – Rappler.com
*$1 = P51.24
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.