MANILA — Malacañang dared former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) to file charges against President Rodrigo R. Duterte if they believe that increases in his wealth are questionable.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this call after Sereno said it was the President’s duty to explain increases in his family’s earnings amid allegations they were involved in illegal drugs.
“If Atty. Sereno and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) believe that the increases relating to the President’s assets are ill-gotten wealth, they should file the appropriate charges instead of nitpicking and using media to create intrigue and put the President and his family in a bad light,” Panelo said in a statement.
Earlier, PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas has also asked the President to identify the source of his wealth.
Panelo, who is also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, reminded both Sereno and the PCIJ that they should first show proof of allegations on the President’s ill-gotten wealth.
“After all, ‘ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat’ — the burden of proof lies upon him who affirms, not on him who denies,” he added.
He also stressed anew that it was not a violation of the Constitution not to identify where Duterte’s wealth came from.
“The law does not require the filer to explain the increases in their income, if there are any. Any contrary argument is an undue expansion of the commands of the law pertaining to the transparency of a public official or employee’s property,” Panelo said.
Panelo, meanwhile, described Sereno’s call for Duterte to make a public explanation on his income as “ironic” considering that the Supreme Court (SC) ousted her for being ineligible to hold her position due to her failure to submit her SALNs as law professor at the University of the Philippines (UP).
Sereno’s ouster from the High Court marks the first time that a chief justice was removed through a quo warranto petition.
“We find Atty. Ma. Lourdes Sereno’s comments on the President’s wealth in relation to his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) ludicrous and ironic, considering that her appointment as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was invalidated through a quo warranto petition by reason of her non-submission of the same,” Panelo said.
“Article 11, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution requires public officials to file their SALN. PRRD already did that, unlike Atty. Sereno who failed to faithfully file her SALNs while in UP when she applied for the top magistrate post at the High Court,” he added.
Sereno’s remark came after the PCIJ, in a three-part report, found increases in the incomes of Duterte and his two adult children, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and former Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte while they were in office.
The PCIJ report revealed that the Dutertes owned business assets that were not declared in their SALNs, including an unregistered law firm.
Duterte, however, insisted that what he earned outside politics was none of their business and that majority of his earnings came from an inheritance from his mother, Soledad.
Panelo echoed Duterte saying that the chief executive has properly declared his wealth. (PNA)