• Petition vs. Comelec money ban junked

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    THE Supreme Court (SC) has turned down a petition filed by a bankers group and a businessman that questioned the money ban ordered by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during the national and local elections in May.

    In a decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Arturo Brion, the Court en banc dismissed the petition filed by the Bankers Association of the Philippines and Perry Pe, assailing the constitutionality and legality of Comelec Resolution 9688 dated May 7, 2013, entitled In the Matter of Implementing a Money Ban to Deter and Prevent Vote-Buying in connection with the May 13, 2013 National and Local polls.

    “We hereby dismiss the petition for having become moot and academic. The Status Quo Ante Order issued by the Court on May 10, 2013, having been rendered functus oficio by the May 13, 2013 elections, is hereby formally lifted,” the decision read.

    Under the Money Ban Resolution, Comelec prohibited the withdrawal of cash, encashment of checks and conversion of any monetary instrument into cash from May 8 to 13, 2013 exceeding P100,000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency, per day in banks, finance companies, quasi-banks, pawnshops, remittance companies and institutions performing similar functions. However, all other non-cash transactions are not covered. For this purpose, the Comelec held, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and other financial agencies of the government were deputized to implement with utmost dispatch and ensure strict compliance with this resolution without violating the provisions of Republic Act 1405, as amended, and Republic Act 6426.

    The resolution was meant to prohibit the possession, transportation and/or carrying of cash exceeding P500,000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency from the same date.

    The petitioners, however, argued that the BSP and the AMLC are not law enforcement agencies unlike the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police. They explained that assuming they may be considered as such, the Comelec failed to secure the concurrence of the President to the deputation.

    The petitioners noted that paragraph 3 of the Money Ban Resolution effectively amended RA 9160 (Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 or AMLA) by treating the withdrawal of cash or encashment of checks exceeding P500,000 within one banking day from May 8 to 13, 2013 as a “suspicious transaction,” thus authorizing the AMLC to monitor, initiate investigations, inquire into and examine the deposit. This type of transaction, however, is not among those enumerated as suspicious under Section 3(b) of the AMLA, they said.

    The petition added that the Money Ban Resolution violated an individual’s due process rights because it unduly and unreasonably restricts and prohibits the withdrawal, possession, and transportation of cash.

    The prohibition effectively curtails a range of legitimate activities, and hampers and prejudices property rights, the petition added.

    Bu in the ruling, the high tribunal resolved to dismiss the petition for being moot and academic. “By its express terms, the Money Ban Resolution was effective only for a specific and limited time during the May 13, 2013 elections, i.e., from May 8 to 13, 2013.

    “The Court issued a Status Quo Ante Order on May 10, 2013; thus, the Money Ban Resolution was not in force during the most critical period of the elections—from May 10, 2013 to actual election day. With the May 13, 2013 elections over, the Money Ban Resolution no longer finds any application so that the issues raised have become moot and academic.”

    “The power of judicial review is limited to actual cases or controversies. The Court, as a rule, will decline to exercise jurisdiction over a case and proceed to dismiss it when the issues posed have been mooted by supervening events.

    Mootness intervenes when a ruling from the Court no longer has any practical value and, from this perspective, effectively ceases.”

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