Malacañang on Tuesday challenged the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to file charges against the President to back up their claims that his family had unexplained wealth.
READ: Rody on PCIJ: Much ado about ‘wealth’
On Monday, Sereno reminded the President that as a public official, there is a need to explain the “sharp upticks” in his family’s earnings.
“I believe that we [government officials] should display a simple lifestyle. If an official is suspiciously wealthy, there should be an explanation. And the explanation should be made public,” Sereno said during the sidelines of a voter education forum in Iloilo City.
Instead of telling everyone not to stick their nose into his wealth, Sereno said she believed the President should address the issue amid allegations that Duterte’s family members were involved in illegal drugs.
While the Palace agreed with Sereno that the law requires public officials to file their Statements, Liabilities, and Networks (SALNs), the President’s mouthpiece said he found her comments “ludicrous and ironic” since Sereno’s appointment as the Supreme Court chief justice was invalidated through a quo warranto petition by reason of her non-submission of the same.
Panelo, the President’s chief legal counsel, also said 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,” he said.
“If attorney Sereno and the 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.
“After all, ‘The burden of proof lies upon him who affirms, not on him who denies’,” he added.
Last week, the PCIJ reported that Duterte his children Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and former Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte filed SALNs in 2017 that “continue to confuse because of similarly sharp upticks in their wealth.”
The PCIJ also found out that the law firm Carpio & Duterte Lawyers, where Sara and her husband Mans Carpio are partners, was not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission since the law firm’s establishment a decade ago.
With allegations of their seemingly ballooning wealth, Panelo said Duterte and his family have businesses, downplaying concerns about the growth of the Dutertes assets and their seemingly high earnings from their work as local officials.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has already said the President’s critics and detractors were just nitpicking on Duterte’s SALN, trying to make an issue out of even the “minutest detail” in hopes of pinning the President for some wrongdoing but failing in the attempt.