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Regional News

Report: Duterte received cash ‘gifts’

MANILA (Coconuts/Yahoo News) — A report released by nonprofit, investigative website Vera Files accusing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte of having taken in hundreds of millions of pesos as a 69th birthday “gift” in March 2014 was slammed at a press conference conducted by presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, who demanded proof.

The report alleges that seven deposits amounting to $3.7 million were made to bank accounts belonging President Duterte and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. The bank accounts could be found in the BPI Julia Vargas branch in Ortigas Center, Pasig City, Metro Manila.

Rodrigo Duterte

Vera Files obtained the Duterte bank records from the Senate, which had been submitted by then-Senator Antonio Trillanes IV in 2016 as part of his exposé on Duterte.

In the 2016 elections, Trillanes accused Duterte of keeping millions of pesos in these bank accounts while he was Davao City mayor.

Duterte, who was elected president in 2016, admitted at the time that he did have bank accounts in BPI Ortigas Center, but said they held less than $955.94.

When asked about the new Vera Files’ report, Panelo said: “Is that true? Do they have any evidence to that effect? A lot of people have said that the president has hundreds of millions of pesos, but it’s not true.”

He added, “Like what is often said, one who alleges must prove [his allegations]. If you cannot prove that, don’t say anything because you’re just slandering [Duterte].”

“From what I know,” Panelo said, :when someone gives him gifts, he sends it directly to the Office of the President. In other words, [it’s] the government of the Philippines that will receive the gift. Not him (Duterte). He doesn’t accept [gifts] personally.”

The Vera Files report came out more than a week after Duterte said in a speech at the Philippine National Police headquarters that cops should be allowed to accept gifts and that he considered law that prohibits them from doing so “nonsense.”

A few days after the president said that, his own interior secretary, Eduardo Año, warned members of the PNP that they will face criminal and administrative charges if they accept gifts.

Vera Files and its founder, Ellen Tordesillas, have long been at the receiving end of the Duterte administration’s attacks.

In May, Panelo released a diagram that allegedly revealed a plot by Tordesillas, the news website Rappler, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and ABS-CBN journalist Inday Espina-Varona to oust and discredit the president.

Shortly after the diagram was released, Duterte called Tordesillas “a prostitute.” A month later, Duterte claimed that Tordesillas was stricken with cancer and asking money from people to fund her medical treatments.

Tordesillas has denied the administration’s accusations that she was part of a plot to overthrow the president. She also said that she has long been cured of cancer and that it was her former publisher and two senators who helped her pay for her treatments.