Panelo: Lascañas being used by 'sinister forces' to destroy Duterte

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo believes the retired police officer who accused President Rodrigo Duterte of sanctioning a Davao City "death squad" is being used by the President's foes.

Read: 'Blind loyalty': Self-proclaimed DDS leader says he followed Duterte's orders to kill

"I think he is being used by some sinister forces that will not stop at besmirching the reputation of the President," Panelo told CNN Philippines' "New Day" on Tuesday.

"People against the President will always try to lay the groundwork to destroy the President and they've been attempting to do that for several months now. And they have not succeeded," he added.

 

Panelo said it would be inconceivable for the President to commit such heinous crimes with SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, who said Monday that he was one of the founders of the "Davao Death Squad," a group allegedly responsible for carrying out extrajudicial killings under Duterte's orders.

"This President is a lawyer," he said. "How can a lawyer do that? Committing a crime and then sharing it with an ordinary cop? It's incredible. It's against human nature, human logic, common sense."

Panelo also said Lascañas is not a credible witness because he retracted testimony he made under oath during the Senate hearing in October 2016 on alleged extrajudicial killings.

In the hearings, Lascañas denied the existence of the Davao Death Squad.

Read: Senate report: No 'DDS,' no Duterte hand in killings

"He is liable for perjury because his statement at the Senate hearing was under oath," he said.

But despite the new allegations made by the former police official, Panelo said he would just ignore Lascañas.

"If you ask me, I'd just ignore it because it's a lie," he said. "According to the President, that is part of the territory."

Trillanes' documents likely fake

Meanwhile, Panelo said the documents that Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV presented last week allegedly proving Duterte and his family had over ₱2 billion in his bank accounts could be fake.

Read: Trillanes challenges Duterte: Disclose origin of ₱2 billion in bank deposits

Duterte and his family vehemently denied the senator's claim, with the President saying he would resign if there were proof that he amassed ill-gotten wealth.

Read: Duterte to Trillanes: Prove your allegations and I will resign

Trillanes' accusations resurrect claims he first made during the presidential campaign in 2016, when he said Duterte and his daughter Sara had unexplained wealth.

Read: Banking on the truth: How Duterte, Trillanes made it to this week's headlines

Trillanes also accused Duterte of allegedly having ₱211 million deposited in BPI Julia Vargas, which was not declared in Duterte's 2014 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

Related: BPI on Duterte-Trillanes row: We had nothing to do with it

"He showed documents before and I saw the documents," Panelo said, referring to the campaign period. "And I brought it to the BPI and I asked them: 'Is this yours?' And they said: 'No, they're not ours.' It appears to us that it was a made-up document. So if the documents he presented then were fake, the documents he's going to present now will be the same, false documents."

Panelo also said BPI officials told him that Duterte's accounts never contained ₱211 million.

"I asked the bank officials: 'Did you examine the record?' he said. "And they said yes. 'Was there any amount whether deposited singly or simultaneously or the total, the running account?' They said none. If there was not even ₱211 million in his account, how can there be ₱2 billion?"

During the campaign, Duterte revealed his bank records, which showed two BPI accounts with ₱17,000 and around ₱24,000.

Read: Duterte presents peso, dollar accounts

Duterte willing to respond to AMLC

In response to Trillanes' dare to open his bank accounts, Duterte said in a speech that he is allowing the Anti Money-Laundering Council (AMLC) to examine his net worth.

Read: Duterte orders AMLC to release info on his net worth

"That alone is a dramatic manifestation of a person who is not keeping anything, otherwise, he would not be doing that," Panelo said. "Now, whether the AMLC would do it remains to be seen."

But Panelo said the President is willing to respond to any formal request from AMLC.

"According to Mr. Trillanes, he's going to request (AMLC to look into the President's accounts)," he said. "Then he should do that. And if the AMLC says: 'We need a formal letter from the President,' then the President will respond accordingly."

Trillanes told CNN Philippines' "The Source" on Tuesday that he will be calling Duterte's "bluff" on his statement and will write a letter to the AMLC to request the President's account details.

 

Trillanes has said he will resign if proven wrong about the President's bank accounts. But until then, he said his fight continues.

"I'm not going to give up in pursuit of the truth," Trillanes said.