February 16, 2017 / 10:08 AM / 2 years ago

Philippine senator accuses Duterte of stashing millions of dollars

MANILA (Reuters) - A staunch critic of Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday revived allegations of millions of dollars of hidden assets that he said the president had yet to answer, an assertion Duterte’s camp dismissed as a publicity stunt.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announces the disbandment of police operations against illegal drugs at the Malacanang palace in Manila, Philippines early January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Ezra Acayan

Senator Antonio Trillanes, one of only a few politicians who regularly challenge the popular president, released copies of what he said were bank statements from 2006 to 2015, totaling 2.4 billion pesos ($48 million) in numerous accounts, that he said belonged to Duterte and which he had failed to declare before his election last May.

According to the copies Trillanes released, some of the accounts were joint accounts that Duterte held with people close to him, including relatives.

Some were individual accounts in the names of other close associates, but Trillanes said all the accounts, even those that did not bear Duterte’s name, actually belonged to him. Duterte denies the allegations.

“If my allegations are proven wrong, I will immediately resign as senator,” Trillanes, a former navy lieutenant who led a failed coup in 2003, told a news conference.

“The president has been vocal on his campaign against corruption, but how can we expect him to solve this problem when he himself had questionable amounts of money in his accounts?”

Trillanes had accused Duterte during the election campaign of keeping secret bank accounts.

In a radio interview, Duterte’s legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, dismissed the allegations as “old issues” and said Trillanes was “only looking for free publicity”.

In a video message from his southern hometown Davao City, Duterte denied the allegations and dared the senator to go to court and file corruption charges against him.

“I have answered his allegation before I became president. The people have already spoken, they have placed me in the office with 16 million votes,” he said.

Duterte’s spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said the president may release the history of his bank transactions, “if necessary”, but not in response to the senator’s allegations.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty and Alison Williams

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