MANILA, Philippines – It’s contempt season at the Senate.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile wants a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) official cited in contempt of court. Enrile is convinced that a BSP anti-money laundering examiner lied during a Senate probe into the alleged leak of the bank records of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
BSP’s Jerry Leal told the Senate committee on banks on Thursday, March 1, that he never asked for or got a copy of the specimen signature card of Corona while conducting an audit on the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) in 2010.
Enrile, however, believes the testimony of PSBank President Pascual Garcia III. Garcia said the central bank asked for Corona’s bank documents, specifically copies of the signature card and account opening forms.
“I suspected all along that it was him (Leal) who was the cause of the leak …. If you targeted Chief Justice Corona for something else, you will never put that in your request. It’s too obvious.”
“Now the whole thing is out. He did not tell the truth in this committee,” said Enrile. “We’ll have to teach a lesson to bureaucrats who are toying with our laws.”
Enrile thinks Leal targeted Corona’s bank documents, even suspecting that he is covering up for a higher official.
Committee chairman Sen. Sergio Osmeña III ordered Leal to explain in writing by Monday why he should not be cited in contempt of court.
If a majority of the committee members are not convinced, Leal will be cited in contempt and detained at the Senate.
Enrile said Leal will stay in Senate custody “until he tells the truth in the committee” or until the Supreme Court issues a writ of habeas corpus.
The Senate decided to conduct a separate probe into the supposed leak of Corona’s bank documents. In question are Corona’s alleged bank records that the prosecution attached to its request for a subpoena.
PSBank officials insist that the leak did not come from the bank, hinting that the BSP was the source of the prosecution. PSBank also said the records are fake.
Who is lying?
Leal, however, insists that he is the one who is telling the truth. He said he never met Garcia.
He explained that the BSP only asked the PSBank to comply with the requirement to label Corona’s bank records as PEP, which stands for politically exposed persons.
“I only asked the bank to tag the account of Chief Justice Corona electronically, and there is nothing on record to show that I received the documents or asked that the records of Chief Justice Corona be submitted.”
Garcia told senators he has no proof that Leal received Corona’s bank records. Despite what he called an oversight, Garcia said Leal e-mailed him to ask for Corona’s records and those of 7 other depositors.
The PSBank president said Leal made the request even after the BSP finished looking into the records of 112 depositors other than Corona.
Garcia said he brought the documents during an “exit conference” with the BSP in November 2010.
Enrile though was inclined to believe Garcia’s account. He and Osmeña said Leal could be held liable for violating internal policies of the BSP, and the bank secrecy law.
Leal is the second person that may be cited in contempt of court in a span of just one day.
On Wednesday, February 29, the Senate acting as an impeachment court cited private prosecutor Vitaliano Aguirre in contempt of court for covering his ears while Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was talking.
The Senate will determine next week what penalty to impose on Aguirre.
The Corona trial is linked to the Senate’s separate probe into the alleged leak of the bank records.
Enrile has said that if the prosecution’s bank documents are found to be fake, this may affect the admissibility of the records as evidence.
The prosecution is expected to formally offer evidence on Friday, March 2. Senators will make a ruling on the offer by next week. – Rappler.com