The Palace is not backing proposals to ease the country’s bank secrecy law despite the laundering in the country of $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh Central Bank.
President Communications Undersecretary Manolo Quezon 3rd said that the recommendations of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on the easing of bank secrecy laws have yet to be finalized with Philippine and foreign authorities and the Senate has yet to finish its investigation of the fund heist.
“The recommendations from the Bangko Sentral are not very specific at the moment. They just mention that the rules should be stricter. The Aquino Administration and our lawmakers, of course, will wait for the specific recommendations,” Quezon said in a radio interview.
Under the Philippine Bank Secrecy law, bank account holders have absolute right to secrecy as to the details of their deposits in Philippine Peso. Bank account details can only be revealed if there is a written permission from the depositor; in cases of impeachment; upon order of a competent court in bribery or dereliction of duty cases of public officials or unexplained wealth such as plunder; and in cases where the money is the subject matter of litigation.
But if the deposits are in foreign currency, the right of bank account holders to secrecy is absolute under the Philippine Foreign Currency deposit law.
Quezon, however, conceded that the country’s bank secrecy law should be amended to address money laundering, considering that even Switzerland, a country that valued the privacy of its bank account holders for the longest time, is also mulling easing its bank secrecy laws by 2017.
“So far, there is a good example here which is Switzerland. They are very strict in protecting the account holders and their deposits. If we are going to follow their stance, I’m sure our lawmakers, the Department of Finance, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the BSP will be studying this closely and we’ll learn something from their processes,” Quezon pointed out.
“I do think if there’s one real concern, it would be the security or safety of account holders and bearing that in mind, I’m sure there will be proper safeguards for that,” the Palace official added.
On March 11, 2016, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Secretariat filed a complaint against four holders of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation accounts where the stolen $81 million was deposited. Complaints were also filed against Maia Santos-Deguito, the branch manager of RCBC Jupiter Branch in Makati City.
The four account holders, however, were just named John Does since it was found that the identify documents used to open the four accounts were fictitious.
On March 15, the Court of Appeals issued a freeze order on those four RCBC accounts upon the request of the AMLC.