We are now just less than a week from the Philippine Presidential elections and the fever amongst the electorate has reached temperatures as high as the heatwave currently plaguing the nation. Passions from different camps flare in all directions, making even the most civilized and educated amongst us act like crazy sports fanatics cheering for their team and defending them to the hilt. The frontrunner, Presidential candidate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, has swept the nation like a tsunami. He is widely expected to win the Presidency next week and his rivals and critics have been throwing mud as well as the proverbial kitchen sink at him in acts of desperation hoping to pull Duterte down as they approach the finish line.
In the Philippines, politicians with lots of money and properties are usually frowned upon. There is a presumption that such riches are ill-gotten as the salaries of politicians are meager. Although it is quite illogical to automatically make the jump from riches to corruption, I can’t really blame the Filipino people for falling into the Non sequitur fallacy. The Philippines has been plagued by corruption for a long time and it has always been considered as one of the most corrupt countries in the world outside of war ravaged lawless third world countries with totalitarian regimes like in certain African nations. In fact, even under the rule of the current administration headed by President Benigno Aquino III (PNoy) who many have believed to be an honest and incorruptible leader, the Philippines was perceived to have become more corrupt by global watchdogs such as Transparency International. The people have become angry and fed up with the politicians ruling the country. Genuine change has become the most important issue in this election. Platform of governance and specific economic recovery roadmaps have taken a backseat behind voter frustration and anger. This has paved the way for the rise of Asia’s political Donald Trump – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Last week, one of the perpetual bottom dwellers in in the polls, Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, has released a couple of bombshells in hopes of pulling down Duterte. Trillanes alleges that Duterte has hundreds of millions in the bank (even up to Php2.4 Billion in bank transactions) as well as 41 properties under his and his family’s name. This is a classic yellow attack job just like what was used against former CJ Corona. In Corona’s case, the yellow mob, through the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit, made it appear that Corona has illegally amassed an obscene amount in US dollars throughout nine years. But instead of basing their claim on Corona’s balance, they based it on “bank transactions”. This means that they added all the debit and credit entries for each of the transactions Corona made throughout 9 years. (e.g. A deposit of Php500 and a withdrawal of Php500 would make you have Php1,000 in the bank, as per the government’s calculations.) This is exactly how Trillanes is making it appear that Duterte is a billionaire crook. Trillanes is feeding the public the thought that Duterte, with the meager salary of a City Mayor, could not have accumulated billions of pesos – hence, Duterte must be corrupt. In Corona’s case, it turned out to be Corona’s savings when he was still a private lawyer, proceeds of sales of property that was part of the inheritance of his wife, and the savings of her daughters and son commingled with his account in order to command a higher interest rate. But the yellow mob is not exactly known for playing fair and honest. The name of the game for them is to poison the well and condition the minds of the people into believing their propaganda. Duterte appears to be being attacked in a very similar fashion.
With regards to the 41 properties Trillanes alleged Duterte to have, we may recall how the yellow mob did a number on CJ Corona. The Land Registration Authority, claimed that their records show that Corona had 45 real estate properties. It turned out that most of these 45 properties were not in Corona’s name but either in a namesake’s name or which the Corona had already sold long before. Corona, it turned out, only actually owned just five properties! In a similar fashion, Trillanes alleges that Duterte owns 41 properties but it is turning out to be another smear. In one of the alleged properties, Trillanes included the property of a person not related to Presidential candidate Duterte. It turns out that a person named Gian Paulo Duterte, who is a dentist in Cagayan De Oro, owns the said property. In addition, the Land Registration Authority confirmed that four of the properties had been sold to new owners yet Trillanes still included these in his count.
Trillanes, in his desperate attempt to make candidate Duterte and his family look excessively rich, was so quick to announce to the media his large count for candidate Duterte’s properties that he failed to realize that he just gave his case a big blow. If he were to file a case against Duterte in a Court of Law, bringing all his evidence and allegations with him, his testimony would be weakened by the legal maxim Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus. So if Trillanes lied about Duterte’s alleged Php211 million pesos (or even billions of pesos) or his 41 properties, could he also be lying about the rest of his allegations against him? The credibility of Trillanes, as an accuser in this case, can rightfully be doubted. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago (another Presidential aspirant in this year’s elections) said during the Corona impeachment trial:
“Once the court is convinced that one panel has been foisting a fake document on the court, the court will then justify indulging the disputable presumption that if one panel has been lying on one particular, then he has been lying on all particulars and will have to disbelieve everything that the panel offers in evidence.”
But of course all these principles are not important to yellow attack dogs such as Trillanes. Never mind how evidence for their allegations were obtained (violating Bank secrecy law), the smear has now been presented in the court of public opinion. Again, very much like how PNoy and his minions have smeared the late former Chief Justice of the Philippines Renato Corona during his impeachment back in 2012, Trillanes has poisoned the well with his allegations and has shifted the burden of proof to the accused (a special form of the logical fallacy that appeals to ignorance).
Last week at a rally in Daet, Camarines Norte, Duterte showed a bank statement from the bank where Trillanes accused him of having some Php211 million. The bank statement revealed that Duterte only has Php27,000, contrary to the millions he was alleged to have. As mentioned previously, the 41 properties alleged by Trillanes is also not accurate. The Bank of the Philippine Islands (the bank where Duterte was supposed to have hundreds of millions of pesos and billions in “bank transactions”), through its representative Jose Teodoro Limcaoco, issued a statement:
“I don’t know where Sen. Trillanes got his information, but the graphic posted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer showing alleged credits, that is not a BPI document.”
So as it stands, these are the relevant facts:
1. Duterte having hundreds of millions (even billions) in the bank is merely an allegation or accusation at this point.
2. The claim by Trillanes of Duterte owning 41 properties is inaccurate.
3. BPI has stated that the evidence presented by Trillanes is not a BPI document.
4. Corruption is a crime in the Philippines.
5. In criminal cases, the burden of proof is on the accuser (or the prosecution), and they must establish that fact beyond a reasonable doubt. (So technically speaking, Duterte doesn’t have anything to do and he doesn’t have to make his detractors’ fishing expedition easy for them.)
6. Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus is a legal maxim used to impeach opposing witnesses in court: the principle discredits the rest of their testimony if it is without corroboration
Any conclusions based on the facts given are premature at this point, have no legal weight, and are merely noise.
Would the facts enumerated bring sanity and level-headedness amongst the political camps in the Philippines? Would these facts convince the anti-Duterte folks to take a pause on their smear drive to let the legal process take place, ensuring that if Duterte is indeed a crook as they allege him to be, he will be accountable to his crimes and punished accordingly instead of merely being hanged in the media? I highly doubt it since it is also a fact that Duterte is looking more and more likely to be the next President of the Philippines (according to the polls with less than 1 week to go before the elections). Desperate times call for desperate measures and it appears that Duterte’s rivals, as well as Duterte’s critics, are getting desperate by the minute.
(Image taken from kami.com.ph)
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