By Patricia Lourdes Viray, April 5 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism called out presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo for apparently forgetting it had sent request letters for comment on the Duterte family’s wealth since late last year.

The Malacañang mouthpiece had questioned the “suspicious timing ” of the release of the PCIJ report on “big spikes” in the wealth of President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as of his children Paolo and Sara.

“The president’s wealth, including those of his immediate family members, has been the favorite subject of media reports during election campaign season,” Panelo said.

PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas said they had sent two batches of letters, first in October 2018 and again in January 2019, for possible interviews with the Duterte’s either through courier, fax and email.

“Mr. Panelo might do well to remember that he received PCIJ’s query letters months ago, and had even referred these to [Executive Secretary Salvador] Medialdea in late February,” Mangahas said.

According to Mangahas, Panelo received copies of the letters and even sent referral letters to Medialdea and Special Assistant to the President OIC Jesus Melchor Quitain to evaluate the requests on February 28.

On March 26, the PCIJ received a copy of Panelo’s referral letters, which Medialdea apparently had not seen by then.

On the same day, the PCIJ sent copies of the letters to Medialdea and Deputy Executive Secretary Ryan Acosta through email.

“There is no ‘suspicious timing’ to the PCIJ report. Instead, there seems to be suspicious selective recall on the part of Mr. Panelo about referral letters he signed and supposedly sent to ES Medialdea and Undesecretary Quitan, just a few weeks ago,” the PCIJ head said.

The PCIJ published its report, which found that Duterte and his two children “have all consistently grown richer over the years” while holding public office, this week.

Sara is gunning for another term as Davao City mayor while also campaigning for senatorial bets of Hugpong ng Pagbabago, her regional party. Paolo is running for first district representative of their home town.

“Not surprisingly, father, son, and daughter, now all have a net worth eight digits each; Sara seems to be the wealthiest among the three as of their 2017 SALNs, Duterte a far second, and Paolo, a close third,” the PCIJ reported.

In their respective Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) for 2017, Duterte delared a net worth of P28.54 million, while Paolo and Sara declared P27.74 million and P44.83 million, respectively.

The PCIJ questioned the rise in the Duterte family’s fortune as “the numbers do not seem to add up, and what they reveal in their SALNs breed riddles of incongruent details instead of qualifying questions.”