MANILA, Philippines – After spending over two hours inside the Bank of the Philippine Islands Julia Vargas branch, Rodrigo Duterte’s lawyer emerged empty-handed on Monday, May 2.
Salvador Panelo was there to obtain a “certification” from BPI that would prove Duterte's controversial bank account never held P211 million.
“The bank asked for 7 days na pag-aralan nila 'yung request kasi may mga legal issues pa raw silang pag-aaralan,” said Panelo. (The bank asked for 7 days to study the request because they have legal issues to consider.)
If the 7 days were to exclude weekends, the bank account details would only be disclosed on May 11, two days after election day.
Panelo added that one reason BPI asked for more time is the non-standard wording of the Special Power of Attorney letter signed by Duterte.
“Unang-una daw, 'yung certification ko parang hindi standard. Wala pa raw silang naaalala na nag-i-issue sila ng certification na walang amount na ganyan sa loob ng isang deposito. Sabi ko, eh 'di pag-aralan 'nyo,” said Panelo.
(First of all, they said, the certification I’m asking for is not standard. They said they don’t remember ever issuing a certification that a certain amount was never in a certain bank account. I said, go ahead and study it.)
In the Special Power of Attorney, Duterte gives Panelo the authority to “request for and receive, from the Bank of the Philippine Islands Julia Vargas Avenue Pasig Branch, bank certificates for BPI Savings Account No. 2433-0695-39 to show the current balance as well as the fact that at no time since the opening of the aforesaid Bank Account was there a deposit either singly or collectively of Two Hundred Eleven Million Pesos (P211,000,000.00).”
Trillanes gives affidavit
Asked why the wording of the letter did not simply ask for a transaction history, Panelo said, “Ah hindi, kasi ang issue ay P211 million eh .” (Ah no, because the issue is P211 million.)
Panelo was joined inside the BPI branch by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who granted no interviews with the media at the bank.
It was then that Trillanes handed Panelo his affidavit, conceding to Duterte’s challenge that he issue one.
Panelo said Trillanes’ explanation of how he got the documents detailing the controversial deposits proves how “spurious” the documents are.
In the affidavit, Trillanes said his source is a certain Joseph de Mesa, a former Duterte supporter who has contacts in an agency “involved in investigating ill-gotten wealth of government officials.” (READ: Duterte to AMLC: How is military able to look inside bank accounts?)
“Madaling sabi, hearsay na kay De Mesa. Narinig pa ni De Mesa sa ibang tao, eh di double hearsay,” said Panelo. (In other words, it was hearsay from De Mesa. De Mesa heard it from another person, so it’s double hearsay.)
The lawyer also said that the affidavit’s attachment, a table full of details of other Duterte bank accounts, does not have the imprimatur of any bank or financial institution.
Panelo said the next step is to wait for the bank to respond to Duterte’s request.
War of supporters
The drama was not confined to the interior of the BPI Julia Vargas branch. Outside, Duterte and Trillanes supporters were engaged in a fierce competition over who could cheer the loudest.
WATCH: Trillanes supporters shouting "Duterte corrupt!" in front of BPI Julia Vargas #PHVote pic.twitter.com/KHGcOlL4I3 — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) May 2, 2016
War of Duterte, Trillanes supporters happening now at BPI Julia Vargas. #PHVoteDuterte pic.twitter.com/njIUqdFKbH — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) May 2, 2016
Trillanes supporters held cartolina paper bearing the words, "Daming kayamanan. Saan galing? (So much wealth, where did it come from)" and "Ayaw namin sa mga corrupt na kandidato" (We don't want corrupt candidates).
They were shouting "Duterte corrupt!"
Right beside them were Duterte supporters carrying posters chanting their presidential candidate's name.
Bystanders and other supporters stood on traffic islands in the middle of Julia Vargas Avenue.
Duterte's campaign team seemed to pull out all the stops. Trucks blaring Duterte jingles and even a Duterte mascot appeared during the long wait.
A middle-aged female supporter of the Davao City mayor said she hopes to deposit some money into Duterte's account as a show of support.
"Nandito po kami para magsuporta kay Mayor Duterte at magdeposit po sana kami kahit tigte-10 pesos lang," she said. (We are here to support Mayor Duterte and deposit even just P10.)
Meanwhile, Trillanes supporter John Pacheco said, "Ang ginagawa ni Senator Trillanes ay hindi para sa kanyang sarili kung hindi para sa ating lahat." (What Senator Trillanes is doing is not for himself but for all of us.) – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.