Palace challenges Sereno, PCIJ to sue Duterte over growing wealth

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 09 2019 04:34 PM

MANILA- Malacañang on Tuesday challenged ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) to sue President Rodrigo Duterte over his family's growing riches.

Instead of "nitpicking," Sereno and the PCIJ should just file charges if they find the President's wealth to be questionable, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

"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," Panelo said in a statement.

The PCIJ recently released a report on the alleged growing wealth of Duterte's 3 children, Paolo, Sara, and Sebastian, who are all running in the May midterm elections.

In an earlier statement, PCIJ said it "wished only for the Dutertes to offer clear, direct, straightforward replies to our queries."

"Instead of blaming PCIJ for the report. Mr Duterte should turn his attention at his deputies, notably Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, for the failure of Office of the President to attend to PCIJ's request letters, over the last five months." said Malou Mangahas, PCIJ Executive Director in a statement Sunday.

Sereno on Monday meanwhile challenged the President to explain to the public his family's supposed increased wealth.

It can be recalled that Sereno, a vocal critic of the President's war on drugs, was ousted last year over her failure to faithfully declare her wealth when she applied for the top magistrate post.

Panelo dismissed Sereno's comments as "ludicrous and ironic," noting that her appointment to the Supreme Court was invalidated because of wealth declaration issues.

"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.

The President has blasted the PCIJ report, and credited his late mother, Soledad Duterte, for his wealth.

"Di naman ninyo pagod yun, di ko naman pagod yun bakit ko ilagay sa SALN? Wala akong bayad sa bahay, wala akong bayad sa kain. For the longest time I was living with my mother libre lahat, pati mura," Duterte said over the weekend.

(You did not work for it. It wasn't you who got tired. Why should I put it in the SALN? I did not pay for my house, for my food. For the longest time I was living with my mother, everything was free including cuss words.)