AMLC COUNCIL, EXECUTIVES SHOULD RESIGN

AMLC debased under Aquino

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Set up in 2001 during President Gloria Arroyo’s term, it is only under President Benigno Aquino that the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) along with  its secretariat has been debased into a political weapon. The council has also failed to justify its raison d’être as proven by the fact that we have become the preferred site for a quick money laundering operations, the world’s dirty-money haven, as the Agence France-Presse put it.

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Unfortunately, Aquino’s ineptness seems to have rubbed off on the AMLC Chairman Amando Tetangco, first appointed as governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas by Arroyo in 2005, and reappointed by the incumbent President.

It is high time that Tetangco, who seems to see himself as some financial pope above the fray that the press and even the Senate can talk only to his subordinates, together with the AMLC executive secretary Julia Abad, accepted responsibility for the agency’s debasement and uselessness. They should resign, to show to the world that they are made of high moral fiber as the Bangladesh Bank governor did, to accept accountability for the hacking of the central bank’s accounts.

A huge $81 million — the biggest ever such heist  according to the Guinness Book of Records — was stolen from a poor country’s central bank and vanished through the Philippine’s  financial system. And no head will roll for this international shame?

Indeed, anyone responsible for the AMLC should resign in  shame, as the body has come infamous not for its success in confiscating the ill-gotten wealth of global and local drug lords, terrorists, and jueteng lords, but for three and only three things:

(1) Its collaboration with Aquino to remove former Chief Justice Renato Corona by leaking and then outrightly disclosing his peso and dollar bank accounts;

(2) Its apparent collaboration with Aquino in the demolition job against presidential candidate Jejomar Binay, with a reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer having in her possession a confidential AMLC report, and recently;

(3) Its failure to detect and stop the transfer of $81 million in stolen money from the Bangladesh central bank in New York to a Philippine bank, and to the hackers’ accomplices here.

WHAT BANK SECRECY LAWS? AMLC Chairman Tetangco says bank secrecy laws are too strict. Then how could Keh, Banal and Ombudsman Morales have so easily obtained Corona’s bank data for the impeachment trial in 2012, and how could reporter Carvajal have seen, as she claims, an AMLC preliminary report on a presidential candidate?

WHAT BANK SECRECY LAWS? AMLC Chairman Tetangco says bank secrecy laws are too strict. Then how could Keh, Banal and Ombudsman Morales have so easily obtained Corona’s bank data for the impeachment trial in 2012, and how could reporter Carvajal have., as she claims, an AMLC preliminary report on a presidential candidate?

First, when all of the impeachment charges against Chief Justice Corona had appeared to be baseless, AMLC appeared to enter the fray and help Aquino. The amounts in the bank accounts of Corona and his wife were leaked to a newspaper columnist and in a blog, and to Liberal Party stalwart Jorge Banal, who hilariously claimed he found it at his gate. An Aquino fanatic, the Ateneo School of Government’s Harvey Keh tried to make Corona’s bank accounts part of the trial’s records by delivering data on these – to Enrile’s office. The former Martial Law administrator proved to have a better moral compass than Keh by refusing to even open the envelope containing it.

When those tactics didn’t work, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales asked the AMLC Executive Director Vicente Aquino to provide her with data on Corona’s dollar accounts. Aquino obeyed her without question, even if there is a specific law categorically banning these from being disclosed for any purpose, except upon written approval by the holder of the bank account.

We don’t even know if  Aquino asked, as he is required to,  the three members of the AMLC for authority to do so. What I know is that when I tried to get in touch with Tetangco to ask why he had allowed such wanton violation of the law, I was told that he was out of town, and that a deputy BSP governor represented him in the AMLC.

Worse, as I have written several times, Morales distorted the AMLC’s data in such a way that she added up all transactions – i.e., a $100 deposit and a $100 withdrawal was counted as Corona’s having a $200 balances. She then  screamed to the world that the Chief Justice was hiding $10 million in his secret dollar accounts (the reality was that it was less than $1 million.)

AMLC raised a lynch mob

That was nothing more but a black-propaganda  stunt  intended to raise such a furor that a lynch mob was unstoppable, and the Senate – except for  three with integrity and wisdom – kicked the Chief Justice out of the Court, the first time ever this occurred in our history.

Did the AMLC undertake an investigation into such serious breach of bank confidentially? Did the AMLC bother to correct Morales’ distortion of the report given her? It didn’t, which bolsters my view that from the start,  the AMLC was part of the conspiracy to attack the Supreme Court.

Second, last year and then just last week, Philippine Daily Inquirer used as banner stories the articles filed by the same reporter (Nancy Carvajal) who cited a single document, the “AMLC report,” to allege that vice presidential candidate Binay had “billions” of pesos in his bank accounts  and used several people as dummies. That it was a hatchet job was obvious in that Carvajal merely repeated the same article she wrote last year, she herself admitting that she was citing the same document. However, the AMLC after that had reported to the Court that after its investigations, it found only P1.7 million in Binay’s account.

This is so outrageous, really. The AMLC’s reports on individual bank holdings are probably the most secret kind of documents in the country since these are the only such documents that a law (the AML Law of 2001, as amended) severely penalizes a person for disclosing such information. In fact, the law even specifically lists who would be made responsible for “malicious reporting… relative to money laundering:”

“In the case of a breach of confidentiality that is published or reported by media, the responsible reporter, writer, president, publisher, manager and editor-in-chief shall be liable under this Act. (Sec. 9d).” Prescribed penalties involve imprisonment from six months to four years.In fact, not even those who are the subject of AMLC investigations are given copies of its reports.

And what does the AMLC do with such blatant use of AMLC data, which really could have been tampered with as nobody else except the Inquirer reporter (apart from the Court) has access to?

It doesn’t even warn the Inquirer that its article citing an AMLC report is illegal. It doesn’t even investigate the breach in confidentiality.

Worse, the AMLC revealed its political partisanship when  it issued a  press statement that didn’t say it will investigate the breach in confidentiality but instead  taunted Binay  “The AMLC will continue to discharge its legal mandate without fear or favor.”

$81 million entered, vanished

And third, the AMLC has been embarrassingly caught napping as $81 million in stolen money entered the country, put in dormant accounts, and withdrawn to equally dubious accounts.

Do you know, dear reader, that the AMLC’s is authorized to investigate a transaction amounting to just P500,000, with its computer systems designed to alert its staff to such amount of transactions? Yet $81 million  entered a single bank—in a single branch, in a single day—equivalent to P4 billion, deposited to dormant accounts, and then withdrawn,   yet the AMLC didn’t notice it. I don’t think even  P1 billion had ever entered a bank’s branch ever.

It had to take a person-to-person call from the Bangladesh Bank governor to BSP Gov. Tetangco, the AMLC chairman, to alert him that such a huge stolen amount was entering the Philippine banking system.

Yet the  AMLC started to work on the Bangladesh Bank governor’s alert on Feb. 3, according to its executive director, Julia Abad in her testimony in the Senate. It issued the freeze order a week later on Feb. 11. The criminals obviously had the time to withdraw the proceeds, and these have vanished into thin air.

Contrast that to Sri Lanka’s successful interception of the $21 million from the same heist that entered its banking system. Sri Lanka has more efficient regulatory bodies than ours? Aargh.

Tetangco made two flimsy excuses why his AMLC had been inept in stopping the $81 million from vanishing.

One is that the loophole in the anti-money laundering law is that casinos are not included in the categories of institutions under the central bank’s mandate. This is a very lame excuse, as it was quite obvious in this heist that half of the $81 million was transferred not to the criminal’s casino accounts but to their personal accounts. Some P20 million was even withdrawn in cash.

Second, Tetangco says that our bank secrecy laws are too strict. “Once money enters a deposit account, you can’t see it anymore,” he said in a TV interview. This is our AMLC chairman? Then how could a columnist, a congressman, the Ombudsman get the bank balances and even details of the transactions of the Chief Justice? How could one reporter have an AMLC confidential report making allegations about the Vice President’s bank accounts?

Tetangco may have been an excellent central bank governor,  but he thinks it is beyond him since he is the Philippine version of Alan Greenspan,  to  run what is really an anti-crime unit  which the AMLC is, so that he has delegated almost all the work there to subordinates who may not have the moral fiber that he has.  If he can’t supervise the AMLC, and the law requires him to chair it, he should accept the reality and resign as BSP governor, and let somebody who can really supervise that crucial anti-crime agency, one who would insulate it from politics.

Or maybe the law should be amended so that the council is led full-time by somebody who would be on the same rank as the three incumbent members of the AMLC, the heads of the BSP, the SEC and the Insurance Commission. How could such sensitive post as the AMLC chairman be a part-time job? The likelihood is for him to delegate all of his work eventually to really unqualified people.

Because of the AMLC’s incompetence, we’ve received another blow to our image. The talk outside is that Filipinos  hacked the computers of the Bangladesh central bank, and squirrelled away the money through their banks in Manila. But the Sri Lankans in their case caught the thieves. Filipinos stealing from the Bangladeshi? How shameful is that?

I had been wondering  why the senators investigating the issue are treating the AMLC with kid gloves, that they didn’t even require its head to testify in such an important hearing, and didn’t even grill its executive secretary over to ask her the  body moved so slowly, which gave time for the thieves to vanish with their loot.  A Senate staffer offered a reason: “They’re terrified  that the AMLC might get back at them, and peek into their bank accounts.”

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com

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23 Comments

  1. I thought there was a “fruit of a poisoned tree” doctrine ?
    Worse than FM’s decrees, this admin is abusing and has trampled on the rule of law just to exact vengeance against their perceived enemies.

    Focus on vengeance and politics made AMLC bantay-salakay on this transaction of US$ 81MM.

  2. If there will be a movement on these $81 Million heist, that is the conviction of Deguito with some small rcbc personel and the rest will go scott free. Philippine at its finest.

  3. Actually, all of these benigno shenanigans could not have happened if only those lawyers, accountants and even clerks in the offices of those plunderers have still the idealism of their youth to bare publicly any document that comes across their hands or in their offices that proves the perfidy of their bosses. Have these bureaucrats totally lost their morality and humanity and have succumbed to the temptation of money and power that they have become willing accomplices to the plunder of the Filipino nation?

    Anyway, every thing is not lost. I happen to read about this Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative of the Dept of Justice where anyone can post documents that proves those allegations of plunder by Messrs. Joseph Emilio, Proceso or Florencio. Surely, there will always be a paper trail of any of their assets in any part of the world and such assets can always be recovered. Anyone can check http://www.fcpablog.com.

  4. This is the reason why I have abandoned Inquirer from reading because it has clearly became a political machinery of the Yellows. Their utter biased is clearly evident. Anyhow, getting back to the issue. This all stem from PNoy’s crook governance. I hope the people will intelligently vote a good leader come election.

  5. Based on the AMLA, Financial Institution are absolutely barred from discussing with the media the fact that a suspicious transaction Report was filed reporting their suspicion. Confidentiality of the STRs is a standard in countries with AML regulations and that is to protect the financial institutions and to make them comfortable in making these reports. In most jurisdiction, FIU (counterpart of AMLAC) also respects the confidentiality of STR and never reveals the report. They use these reports as a basis of their investigation and as soon as they believe their is a crime they refer it to the appropriate agency to further investigate and prosecute i.e. send it to FBI or to Postal Service They never go on TV and disclose that STRs are filed. During the first hearing, this head of AMLC categorically stated that there are STRs filed.

  6. Cynicbuthopeful on

    I only have one question. In the case of the Bangladesh heist, the Senate has already dragged (called) the officers of RCBC.

    So why is it that with the alleged Binay horde which is a lot more than the RCBC case, not a single bank and its officers have been identified by the AMLC and brought before the Senate?

  7. That Senate hearing on that USD81M money laundering is great PR job of RCBC to save itself. With Senators aiding and abetting it using my tax and yours.

    Also, consider that RCBC Plaza is know location of on line gaming operations. Are there dots to connect?

  8. a reporter is protected by law not to reveal their sources UNLESS 1.the story is proven false, baseless or inaccurate and 2. it affects the laws or National Security. Carvajal’s story on Binay’s bank accounts have been proven false when AMLC admitted the VP has only one bank account, so her source lied. Second, her so-called exclusive expose gravely affects National security as her source can now make the Philippine banking industry vulnerable to all its banking records. Imagine a criminal element having access to all the banking records of Filipno.

    • pls. do not distort the fact. AMLC said Binay has several bank account thru his dummies. That is different from saying Binay has several bank account. Do not omit “thru his dummies”.

    • The problem is there are no competent law enforcement agencies in the Philippines, if there were some of those liberal party criminals would of been arrested for the pork barrel scandal.

      The courts, the Dept of Justice and the Ombudsman are all subservient to Aquino.

  9. renato irlanda on

    people are really terrified at what this abnormal penoy aquino might still do from now up to the time he vacates the malacanang den of incompetents in work, but competent in stealing!!!
    nakupo! kung yung galing nyo sa pagnanakaw ay nagamit nyo sa galing nyong magpalakad ng gobierno baka pati Singapore maiiyak sa atin sa inggit

  10. The article clearly shows the uselessness of the AMLC in the past and in the present because of the pervading incompetence at the highest level. The same will be true for the future unless its management is changed to one that sees its job as nothing more than a front line defense against money laundering and terrorist financing BY RAISING FINANCIAL RED FLAGS as they happen AND NOT as reporters or verifiers of anomalies which have taken place under its nose. Even the inclusion of casinos under its ambit will prove futile, if AMLC does not incorporate a robust FINANCIAL RED FLAG system in its re-invigoration.

    • Put it simply – the AMLC put both their hands on their eyes to completely shut down in seeing The money pass through AMLC – RCBC Head Office undetected ??? – or they just let the money flow and pass by timely it was a 3 days holiday (feb 6,7, 8) . And the whole day of Feb 9 – where the cash was remitted by Philrem & withdrawn by fictitious persons then transferred to unsuspecting (???) Go and vanished! – Then the entry of of a law firm said to be close to a senator. This one’s for John Grisham legal novel…

  11. Mr Tiglao, I will not be surprise if nothing happen to this investigation. It was obvious that there is connivance with the higher ups of RCBC, ALMC and BSP. Who in their right mind will believe that $81 million will be deposited without their knowledge? It is a common knowledge in the US that Filipinos are number 1 in fraud. As a filipino, I avoid my co filipinos when it comes to business or money matters. I join them when it comes to kainan, at tsismis.

  12. Those idiots will not voluntarily resign. Execessive pride defines their character. Power and perks have consumed them.

    Isa pa, kung sakaling magbitiw sila, hindi sila Pilipino. In our contemporary history in the government sector, may nag-resign ba dahil sa documented na katarantaduhan at kabulukan? May precedent-setting ba? Dito, patibayan ng dibdib.

  13. ACTUALLY THE 81 MILLION USD , Is not that big,,,,,,,,compared to jueteng money
    of which the present administration must be being compensated,,,,,,

    By the way, probably same with the past administration…..and even before that ERAP and before that FVR and before that ….Kamaganaks ! How far back do we go ?

  14. Leodegardo Pruna on

    What could we expect of an administration with incompetent and character-less people, from head down, running the affairs of government. They are all after their own necks and greed. Why not conduct a “lifestyle” check on them. God save the Philippines.

  15. Mr. Amando Tentangco was a nobody before Gloria Appointed him in the Central Bank however, apparently his position have gotten into his head now believing that he is a super human being in his position. While before he was neutral in his leanings during the Arroyo administration as CB head, now, after PNoy reappointed him his head have become bigger and willing to be used by politicians to become partisan. For sure he knew how the AMLC was used against Mr. Renato Corona then allegedly against Boy Scout Jojo and now involved in a the great and huge $81 billion which got into the Philippines but disappeared like thin air. Now AMLC is not in the know where the money is while in the Corona and Binay cases it is directly involved in fabricating information and records.

  16. Lahi kasi ng mga traydor(lolo niya ay makapili noon panahon ng mga hapon) at balasubas(Ninuno niya ay niloko ang gobyerno sa pagkakuha sa Lusita noon) si NOYTARD kaya puro sinira ang halos sangay ng pamahalaan.Walang kjwenta sa kanya iahit mabalahura ang sistema.Sira -ulo kasi si ABNOY.Walang pakialam sa kapkanan ng masa ang gago.

  17. It is no longer surprising to find out that almost all government bodies kowtow to BS Aquino III. The supposed to be independent AMLC, the country’s arm to make sure money transactions in the Philippines are above board, has been afflicted, too with the “conspiracy virus.” A change in government is really a must. Those who conspired to defraud the people should be punished.

  18. Thank you Mr. R. Tiglao for exposing the biases of AMLC toward Pnoy’s object of vengeance. It’s gut wrenching to watch the Senate hearing with AMLC representative like lawyering for the big fish of RCBC and its alleged valued clients (scammers). The senators grandstanding in ferreting out –in overused mantra of: in aid of legislation– information is nothing but a campaign ploy at the expense of the taxpayers. So pathetic display of insult to the citizenry.

  19. Yet the AMLC started to work on the Bangladesh Bank governor’s alert on Feb. 3, according to its executive director, Julia Abad in her testimony in the Senate. It issued the freeze order a week later on Feb. 11.
    ————————————————–
    Incompetent or accomplices either way there is no reasonable excuse for waiting a week to issue a freeze order unless it was a deliberate delay to allow the money to disappear.

    Apparent that the AMLC is useless and not able to do the job they exist to do but since they are Aquino appointee’s they don’t have to answer for being a embarrassment and showing the rest of the world that criminals control the Philippines.

  20. Presence of RCBC inside Hacienda Luisita, a puzzle, says sugar workers’ group

    Sugar worker groups Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) on Thursday said they were puzzled with the presence of security guards employed by Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) inside the 6,453-hectare sugar estate Hacienda Luisita owned by the family of former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino. According to UMA information officer Jay Calaguing, the RCBC took over 20 hectares in Barangay Cut-Cut and the commercial bank had been telling the people that the 20-hectares were foreclosed because of the Cojuangco’s failure to pay their debts to RCBC. Calaguing said the RCBC detailed a security unit preventing the people to cultivate the lands up to 100 hectares in the boundary of Barangay Cut-Cut and Texas. – The Pamalakaya Times

    https://pampil.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/presence-of-rcbc-inside-hacienda-luisita-a-puzzle-says-sugar-workers%E2%80%99-group/