MANILA, Philippines – The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas audited the bank records of Chief Justice Renato Corona as early as 2010, shortly after President Benigno Aquino III assumed power, a top bank official told the impeachment court on Monday, February 20.
And the records shown to the audit team apparently match those that the prosecution attached to its request to subpoena the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank), he added. The subpoena was issued last February 6.
Returning to the witness stand, PSBank president Pascual Garcia III admitted that as early as between September to November 2010, at least 6 bank accounts of Corona were subjected to a joint audit by the BSP and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
The AMLC is composed of the BSP Governor (Amado Tetangco Jr) as chair, the Commissioner of the Insurance Commission, and the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as members.
It was created by Republic Act No. 9160, or The Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, which was signed into law on Sept. 29, 2001 and took effect a month later. The law criminalizes money laundering and imposes strict requirements on customer identification, record keeping and reporting of suspicious transactions.
Garcia made it clear that the audit was part of a regular BSP audit partly to ensure the bank’s compliance with the anti-money laundering rules.
Garcia revealed the following on Day 20 of the impeachment trial:
1.) That the audit team examined the bank records of Corona and other high public officials with deposits in PSBank between September and November 2010;
2.) That after its audit, the BSP-AMLC team observed that PSBank failed to classify these accounts under “Politically Exposed Persons” or PEP, which the BSP and the AMLC are requiring as part of its program to monitor violators. PEP includes elected and appointed public officials.
3.) That the “PEP” marking is seen in the prosecution document attached to the subpoena, known as Annex A, but is not in the original bank records. The “PEP” marking did not come from the bank.
4.) That based on PSBank’s own investigation, there are at least 42 differences between Corona’s original bank record and Annex A, which was presented to the prosecution.
Upon questioning by Presiding Officer and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Garcia disclosed that the BSP audit team ordered a classification of accounts belonging to “politically exposed persons,” or those held by high public officials.
Garcia said that as far as he knows, it was the first time in 2010 that such classification was ordered by the BSP.
Yet, upon questioning later by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, Garcia admitted that it was just a BSP audit and that AMLC was not part of it. The BSP audit team only had an AMLA specialist as a member, he clarified.
The AMLC can only audit bank records upon a court order or the commission of a crime, Guingona said, saying he called up his sources in the AMLC who told him they never conducted, as a council, a probe on PSBank.
Garcia initially said that he does not remember turning over the documents to the BSP auditor, only that the PSBank offials presented the records to him. Later, upon questioning by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Garcia acknowledged that it was possible the audit team obtained a photocopy of the Corona records.
Enrile asked: “Is it possible that the records (attached to the subpoena) were accessed by the audit team of BSP and AMLA [during] the September to November 2010 [audit]?”
Garcia said: “I believe, from the nature of the comments indicated (in the attached document).”
Garcia said that the “PEP” marking was not in their original bank documents.
He said he only saw the “PEP” marking in the prosecution’s attachment.
Later, upon questioning by Sen. Joker Arroyo, Garcia stressed that other high officials with deposits in PSBank were also subjected to the same BSP audit for that period.
Enrile asked Garcia to submit to the impeachment court the signature card of Corona that the PSBank showed to the audit team of the BSP, so it could be compared with what the prosecution has.
In explaining his move, Enrile said: “There are many people who handled the records of the Chief Justice from the Katipunan branch. No other [people] could possibly have brought out those documents like the one attached. The only thing that is not scrutinized [are] the records of the account of Corona that [were] submitted to the AMLA-BSP audit team.”
Senator-judge Arroyo expressed concern over Garcia’s revelations, saying the President could use the anti-money laundering law and the BSP to run after politicians who disagree with him.
“This is the impression that I gather from the testimony… as of now it’s the Chief Justice. If we do not follow Malacañang, if we offend Malacañang, they could proceed against us [with] the information gathered through AMLA,” he said. “It’s a disturbing thought.” – Rappler.com