ILOILO CITY (UPDATE) - Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to explain to the public his family's supposed growing riches.
"Kung kahina-hinala na napakadami ng pera ang isang pinuno, dapat may paliwanag 'yun. At ang paliwanag na iyon ay dapat ibigay sa tao," she said during a voter’s education forum at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo City.
Her remarks came after a report from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), which examined the wealth of members of the Duterte family.
Sereno also slammed the President for attacking journalists who are critical of the administration.
"Mali 'yun kasi parang sa Constitution at sa batas natin, nandoon 'yun dapat may pakialam tayo, lalo na sa ganoong klaseng allegations na ang layo daw ng linaki ng yaman nila," she said.
Sereno said these allegations can't simply be swept under the rug, considering some members of the Duterte family are being linked to the narcotics trade.
"At lalong-lalo na ngayon na may alegasyon pa na kailangang patunayan na ng pamilya niya na hindi totoong nagkakalat na balita na parang ang proteksyon ng droga ay mismo nanggagaling sa mga kasama niya sa kanyang pamilya," she said.
In its report released Thursday, the PCIJ noted that President Rodrigo Duterte, daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio, and eldest son former Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte “have all consistently grown richer over the years, even on the modest salaries they have received for various public posts, and despite the negligible retained earnings reflected in the financial statements of the companies they own or co-own.”
Sara is seeking reelection as Davao City mayor while Paolo is running for the city's first district representative.
The PCIJ noted that across the 10-year period from 2007, the President’s wealth nearly tripled, Paolo's wealth more than tripled, and Sara’s wealth grew more than 6 times.
Paolo is also being accused of receiving payoffs from a drug syndicate, which the President had denied.
Malacañang also shrugged off the PCIJ report, saying it the timing of the release was suspect.
'LUDICROUS AND IRONIC'
Malacañang on Tuesday tagged Sereno's comments as "ludicrous and ironic," noting that the former chief magistrate was ousted last year due to her failure to properly declare her wealth.
"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," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Sereno is traveling all over the country to educate the public on how to vote and not be swayed by money politics.
Her appointment at the high court was invalidated in May through a quo warranto petition for failure to faithfully file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs).
Sereno and the PCIJ are also free to file charges related to the President's wealth if they find that these are "ill-gotten," Panelo added.
"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," he said.
- with a report from Bea Zaragosa, ABS-CBN News