The burden of proof has become heavier on President Rodrigo Duterte after he admitted he just made up a Singapore bank account he claimed to belong to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Wednesday.
“(T)he President had no choice but to admit (he lied) because Senator Trillanes was able to prove that the account was nonexistent,” Lacson told reporters.
On Tuesday, Trillanes went to Singapore to check bank accounts he allegedly had with DBS Bank’s Alexandra branch but was told by bank officials that no such account existed and that he was never its client.
Lacson said Mr. Duterte should now show that Trillanes had indeed an existing bank account containing money.
Asked whether he thought the President had tried to bait Trillanes, the senator said he could not read his intention in admitting on government television station PTV 4 that he made up the Singapore bank account number.
“I would say the credibility of Senator Trillanes buoyed up,” Lacson said.
He took his hat off to his colleague for showing that he can disprove the President’s allegations.
“I admire him for that,” he said.
By being able to disprove the bank account, “it follows that it created a cloud of doubt on the other bank accounts [said to belong to Trillanes],” Lacson said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said it was “unusual” at the level of the President to admit that he invented the bank account.
“It’s not very presidential,” he told reporters.
Asked whether this would put a dent on the President’s credibility, Drilon said: “In this particular episode, the debate is muddled by these assertions. How will this end? Your guess is as good as mine.”
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said he did not think Mr. Duterte’s latest statements would affect his credibility.
“You can understand that his words have not affected anything. In fact, economically we are doing very well. In fact, we have just been voted as the most financially inclusive in Asia and so I believe … financial institutions take (his words) in context,” said Abella, who was in the Senate on Wednesday.
Trillanes said that if he had not gone to Singapore, the President would have not taken back his accusation against him.
Duterte now had “zero credibility,” the senator said.
“I had said he made a mistake when he brought this fight to my territory. He will never win here. If he would insist on his allegations, these would only come back to him,” Trillanes said.
He said the President ended up embarrassed in this incident for being caught lying and making up stories.
Abella, who attended a Senate hearing on the proposed budget of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, said Mr. Duterte “has his own logic” and “game plan.”
The President, he said, was “very transparent” and “not hiding anything and in fact put it in context” when he admitted to making up the bank account number.
The new antiadministration coalition, #TindigPilipinas, called out Mr. Duterte for his “immature behavior.”
“You cannot hide behind child’s play or immature behavior. This is not a game, Mr. President,” the group said in a statement.
It echoed Trillanes’ retort to Mr. Duterte.
“It is over. President Duterte lied about the bank accounts of Senator Trillanes. There are no hidden bank accounts. There is no ill-gotten wealth. There is no proof of corruption,” it said.
Trillanes and his Magdalo party are members of #TindigPilipinas, which was launched on Monday at Club Filipino.
The group called on Mr. Duterte to sign a bank waiver if he wanted to disprove Trillanes’ allegation that he has several bank accounts that hold ill-gotten wealth.
Other senators led by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III took the Malacañang line.
“Let us just wait what his game plan is,” Pimentel told reporters. Maybe, he said, the President had information on other bank accounts and he was trying to bait Trillanes.
He said the senators were “hands off” in the exchanges between Mr. Duterte and Trillanes.
Sen. JV Ejercito said the country had an “unorthodox” President and that he did not know what his strategy was.
Ejercito said the burden of proof was with both the President and Trillanes who hurled allegations of hidden wealth at each other. —With a report from Nikko Dizon