Senate will probe BSP-PSBank controversy

The Senate committee on banks, not the impeachment court, will investigate the BSP-led audit that allegedly targeted Corona.

MANILA, Philippines – A Senate panel will conduct a full-blown investigation on the audit of the Philippine Savings Bank. 

The Senate Committee on Banks will investigate the audit of PSBank led by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). The probe comes after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he suspects the leak of Corona’s bank documents came from the BSP or the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which was part of the audit. 

During the Senate session Wednesday morning, Enrile made a manifestation that it is not enough that the BSP and the AMLC release statements on the audit because these were not made under oath. He said these bodies must explain to the Senate.

Enrile made an emphatic statement while the Senate was deliberating amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act. 

“Imagine if the examiner of this AMLC, I’m not against them examining if they comply with the law, but if they can look into the accounts of anybody in this country, then what are the Republic Acts that impose that impose secrecy on certain matters in the country [for]. Is this not a violation of our laws? Is this not a violation of the rule of law in this country? Have we become lawless?”

Enrile added, “Are we not going to respect anymore our laws? We are the lawmakers in this country. Are we ready to accept that we can also be the lawbreakers of the very laws we have made? I think we should look into this. It is the entire system that is in issue here.”

On day 20 of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, PSBank President Pascual Garcia III said some of Corona’s bank records were targetted by the AMLC during the audit. He said AMLC particularly asked about the tagging of bank records as PEP or Politically Exposed Persons. AMLC, however, denied targetting Corona’s accounts

Sen. Edgardo Angara also proposed that the committee on banks look into the scope and authority of AMLC to conduct audits on PEPs to ensure it does not do a witchhunt. “What makes these people unique?” 

Upon the suggestion of Sen. Franklin Drilon, senators decided that the committee on banks is the more appropriate panel to conduct the investigation instead of the impeachment court. The probe will tentatively be held on Mondays.  

Committee chairperson Sen Sergio Osmeña III agreed with conducting an investigation but said that the probe must include measures to make anti-money laundering laws more transparent to comply with standards set by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Osmeña said the FATF put the Philippines in its “dark gray” category and the country must ensure it is not blacklisted. 

“We should take into consideration that the rest of the world is moving to more transparency,” Osmeña said.

“The others (businessmen from other countries) may refuse to do business with our guys [if our anti-money laundering laws are not transparent].” –

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