HAD the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) not been “obsessed” with demolishing the credibility of Vice President Jejomar Binay, it could have prevented the laundering of the $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) president said on Wednesday.
In a statement, UNA President Tobias Tiangco said the incident showed weakness on the part of AMLC, noting that it could have been averted if only the council, headed by the Central Bank governor, focused on its job instead of joining moves to discredit Binay.
“The AMLC has devoted much of its precious time looking for imaginary anomalies committed by the Vice President that it was unable to recognize an actual robbery happening right under [its nose],” he added.
It “was so busy being a tool for political persecution and harassment in the guise of running after the corrupt. [It] may as well have welcomed these thieves with open arms,” Tiangco said.
Malacañang officials distanced themselves from the controversy, explaining that the AMLC is still investigating the transfer of the money siphoned off from the Bangladesh Bank to a Makati City (Metro Manila) branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC).
“The matter is seriously being investigated by the appropriate authorities,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said they could not intervene because the AMLC “is an independent agency.”
Binay claimed that the council is being used by the Aquino Administration to blacken his image with the intention of pulling down his numbers in the survey.
“Nandoon po ang continuing demolition by perception. Kasama sa programming ‘yon. ‘Yong paghahanda sa pangalawang debate. Kumana na naman sila, Ombudsman, nakikisali. Nandiyan na ang COA. Ngayon, isinunod naman ito namang si AMLC [The demolition by perception is continuing. That’s part of their programming. They’re preparing for the second debate. Now even the Ombudsman has joined the fray, also the Commission on Audit. Now they include the AMLC],” he told reporters in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, during a campaign sortie.
The Vice President’s camp lambasted the council for supposedly leaking a report to a national daily (not The Manila Times) about his alleged ill-gotten wealth when the AMLC itself has twice corrected its petition for asset protection.
The petition was filed in November last year before the Manila Regional Trial Court, admitting that the Vice President only had one bank account that contains P1.7 million, not billions, as the agency earlier claimed.