The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to explain its move to investigate the bank accounts of Vice President Jejomar Binay, members of his family and some of his lawyers and friends.
An AMLC report has been the basis of an order issued by the Court of Appeals (CA) to freeze the bank deposits and investments of the Binay family.
In a one-page resolution signed and promulgated by the Clerk of Court, Enriqueta Vidal, the SC en banc ordered the AMLC to submit its comment in 10 days on a petition filed by the lawyers of the Vice President asking the High Court to stop the council from continuing its probe into he Binay family’s bank accounts.
Binay was represented by the Subido Pagente Certeza Mendoza and Binay (SPCMB) law office, which counts Makati City Rep. Mar-len Abigail Binay as a former partner.
The ruling was made without giving due course to the petition and its prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order.
Also named respondents were Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., Securities and Exchange Commission chief Teresita Herbosa and Insurance Commission head Emmanuel Dooc. The three are the current members of AMLC.
In a 44-page petition for certiorari and prohibition filed on March 11, the SPCMB law firm, representing Binay and one of his close allies and alleged dummy, trader Antonio Tiu, asked the tribunal to stop the AMLC from continuing with the examination of its bank accounts.
It urged the SC to declare as unconstitutional the Anti-Money Laundering Act, in so far as it allows the examination of bank accounts “in any way related to a money laundering offense” without giving notice to the respondents.
The law office said Section 11 of Republic Act (RA) 9160, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, “does not specifically provide said right [to due process]” and “does not provide any remedy… to contest the application and subsequent issuance of an order granting application to examine bank accounts.”
It added that its right to privacy and due process were violated by AMLC and the CA.
Binay’s legal camp used as basis of the petition The Manila Times story that AMLC is scrutinizing the bank accounts of the Vice President and persons close to him.
The SPCMB asked the SC to stop the AMLC from examining its bank accounts.
It also wants the council and the CA to refrain from “using, citing, divulging or in any manner invoking” any and all information already obtained pertaining to the law firm’s bank accounts, and declare “any and all information, data, records or transactions obtained through this unlawful examination… inadmissible in any and all proceedings.”
Tiu was accused as a dummy of the Binays after he claimed ownership of the so-called “Hacienda Binay” in Rosario, Batangas.
The law firm noted that the CA has junked its request for copies of the AMLC’s ex-parte Application for the Issuance of an Order Allowing Inquiry into or Examination of Bank Accounts, saying it is a confidential proceeding in the appellate court.
Last week, the CA ordered the freezing of 242 bank accounts, including those belonging to the Vice President, his wife Elenita and son, Makati City Mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr.
The Vice President said renewed attacks to discredit him had made him more determined to pursue his bid for the presidency.
In a statement issued from Cagayan de Oro City, he added that it would be risky to entrust the next government to those without experience.
“I sincerely believe that the issue in this coming elections, for the presidency particularly, is experience and competence. We have undergone and are still undergoing so many things that could not have been serious problems were it not for the fact that one does not have experience and competence,” Binay said.
At the same time, Rico Quicho, Binay’s spokesman on political concerns, said the leak of the one-sided AMLC report “is the start of the last-ditch effort to malign the Vice President.”
He added that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Office of the Ombudsman will also join the conspiracy against the Binays.
“As we enter the survey season, we expect within the next few weeks the NBI and DOJ [Department of Justice] to resurrect the Rosario property issue despite clear statements and evidence showing Tiu’s company as its owner. We also expect the Ombudsman to press its obsession to suspend Mayor Binay despite the clear absence of factual and legal basis,” Quicho said.
The Vice President said there is no need for him to issue a bank waiver since the AMLC has already looked into his bank deposits.
“My bank accounts have become public knowledge, but the conclusions made by the AMLC are wrong and baseless. The AMLC misled the Court of Appeals with the false and baseless conclusions,” he noted.
“The AMLC has already opened and frozen all my bank accounts and insurance policies, including those of my wife, son and several friends and associates. This act was done even before a complaint filed against me has been resolved by the Ombudsman and decided with finality by the courts. Further, in violation of the AMLA law, this has been deliberately leaked to the media and widely publicized in all fanfare and screaming headlines,” Binay said.
He reiterated that he had other sources of income other than his government salary.
The Vice President slammed the council for falsely claiming that the 237 accounts of other persons were his.
Quicho said the timing of the leak of the AMLC report and the release of the CA freeze order is highly suspect.
“It demonstrates a pattern of hurling exaggerated tales and lies against the Vice President in an attempt to pull his survey ratings down to benefit other presidential aspirants,” he added.
“These are all vain attempts to connect the Vice President to their make believe anomalies even if it directly tramples upon his and other people’s right to be afforded due process,” Quicho said.
“Regardless, the Vice President is steadfast to protect his rights under the rule of law and pursue actions to vindicate the wrong done so he can continue his fight to uplift the lives of our people,” he added.