MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at the country’s central bank on Thursday, telling its governor “I will give you a whack” and threatening criminal charges against the country’s anti-money laundering body for supporting graft.
Duterte vented his fury during a speech announcing next year’s 3.35 trillion pesos ($67 billion) state budget and accused the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) of failing to support his war on drugs by tracking the flow of drug money.
The maverick former mayor was in the middle of an unusually placid speech ahead of the holiday period, but became angry when he mentioned his crackdown on drugs and said those who should be chasing the money trail were all politicized and tainted.
He took aim at the AMLC, which is chaired by respected Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco, whom Duterte has been urging to extend his tenure beyond the 12 years he soon will have served.
“I am going to charge all of you there criminally ... and count 1-2-3 and if you don’t resign I will treat you as drug addicts,” he said of the AMLC.
“The reason why you were put there is because you have a job to do. If you cannot know your job get out from that office.”
He added: “You guys there are all corrupt. You better watch out. I will bring you down. Tetangco is about to retire, better prepare there, I will give you a whack.”
Tetangco did not immediately respond to a request for comment and the executive director of the AMLC was not available for comment when Reuters contacted the council.
Deputy central bank governor Diwa Guinigundo said the Bangko Sentral was independent and it would not comment on the president’s remarks.
“One thing we know, we are not serving politics,” he told reporters.
More than 6,000 people have been killed since Duterte took office in July and launched a fierce crackdown on the drugs trade. Suspected dealers and addicts have suffered the brunt of violence but few inroads have been made toward shutting down the narcotics kingpins.
Police say a third of the deaths were suspected peddlers who resisted arrest and the remainder were deaths still under investigation, some of which were likely victims of vigilantes.
Duterte gave no details on how the state agencies had been uncooperative with the drugs war, or specify the extent of corruption he was accusing them of. He was apparently upset about late submission of an assessment report on money laundering, but did not elaborate.
Duterte’s singling out of Tetangco for criticism was a surprise given his efforts to keep him as governor, despite such a move being against the bank’s regulations.
Tetangco has been credited by economists for his stewardship of an institution at the helm of one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
Additional reporting by Neil jerome Morales; Writing by Martin Petty