Public officials should be exempted from coverage of the Bank Secrecy Law to effectively fight corruption, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, said on Sunday.
Zarate made the proposal through House Bill 7146 or the Act Requiring Public Officials and Employees to Execute a Written Permission to Examine, Inquire or Look Into Their Bank Deposits, which amends Section 8 of Republic Act 6713 (RA 6713) or the Act Establishing a Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
It provides that all public officials and employees should execute a written permission for the Ombudsman to examine, inquire or look into all their bank deposits, as an additional exception to the Bank Secrecy Law. It also provides that the husband and wife who are both public officials or employees may file the required statements jointly or separately.
Zarate said the proposal is in accordance with the Act Establishing a Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, which states, “It is the policy of the State to promote a high standard of ethics in public service, and that public officials and employees shall at all times be accountable to the people and shall discharge their duties with utmost responsibility, integrity, competence and loyalty, act with patriotism and justice, lead modest lives and uphold public interest over personal interest.”
He invoked the 1987 Constitution, which states, “A public office is a public trust and that public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice; and lead modest lives.”
It also provides that the State should maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption.
“To fulfill such policies, there is a need for additional measures to ensure that public officials and employees adhere to the highest ethical standards. Despite having in place deterrents like the annual filing of Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SALN), it does not stop public officials and employees from hiding undeclared income which in turn hampers transparent governance and anti-corruption mechanisms,” Zarate said in the bill’s explanatory note.
Under existing laws, public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, their assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households. The wealth statement contains the following: real property, its improvements, acquisition costs, assessed value and current fair market value; personal property and acquisition cost; all other assets such as investments, cash on hand or in banks, stocks, bonds, and the like and liabilities, and all business interests and financial connections.
The Bank Secrecy Law only provides four exemptions where bank deposits can be disclosed which include: upon written permission of the depositor; in cases of impeachment; upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials; and in cases where the money deposited or invested is the subject matter of the litigation.