The Inbox

Ombudsman asks anti-money laundering body for Corona’s bank records

waiver signed by CoronaYahoo

By ELLEN TORDESILLAS,VERA Files

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has asked the Anti-Money Laundering Council for a copy of the records of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona's bank deposits, including dollar accounts that are the subject of a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court.

A highly placed source in the Office of the Ombudsman confirmed that Carpio-Morales sent the request after her office received a complaint seeking an investigation on Corona's supposed ill-gotten wealth and possible money laundering. But AMLC Executive Director Vicente Aquino said he was not aware of such a letter in his office. "We have not received such request," he said.

Aquino also said he refuses to talk about Corona's assets in the media, calling it a "sensitive" issue.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council is composed of the governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Insurance Commissioner and the Securities and Exchange Commission chairperson.

Carpio-Morales' request was precipitated by the complaint filed on Feb. 17 by a group of individuals that included former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel asking the Ombudsman to probe Corona's possible illegal accumulation of wealth, a violation of Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The group also asked that Corona be investigated for possible violation of RA 9160, the Anti-Money Laundering Act. The other complainants are Harvey Keh of Kaya Natin, Ruperto Aleroza of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK), Albert Concepcion of PUSO and Gibby Gorres of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP).

A paragraph at the bottom of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) form serves as a waiver that, when signed by government officials and employees including Corona, empowers the Ombudsman to access from government agencies relevant records needed to examine their networth declarations.

The waiver reads, "I hereby authorize the Ombudsman or his duly representative to obtain and secure from all appropriate government agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, such documents that may show my assets, liabilities, networth, business interests and financial connections, to include those of my spouse and unmarried children below 18 years of age living with me in my household covering past years, to include the year I first assumed office in the government."

On March 6, the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, decided to admit Corona's bank records, including his dollar deposits, as evidence despite suspicions that the prosecution had gotten them through illegal means.

The prosecution has presented to the Senate 10 accounts the Chief Justice had opened with the Philippine Savings Bank's Katipunan branch, five of them dollar accounts, to substantiate Article 2 of the impeachment complaint. Article 2 charges that Corona failed to make public his SALN, omitted to include a number of properties from his declarations, and might have accumulated ill-gotten wealth, including "keeping bank accounts with huge deposits."

One of the dollar accounts reportedly showed an initial deposit of $700,000. Sources, however, said the sum of the dollar deposits was "mindboggling."

Corona has said in media interviews that he was willing to open his dollar accounts "in due time." His lead counsel Serafin Cuevas told the Senate on Wednesday, "I have not yet concretely and positively arrived at the ultimate conclusion that we have to or we do not have to. That will depend on the progress of the proceedings in the nature of our evidence or the stages at which our evidence may be."

The Supreme Court, voting 8-5, granted on Feb. 9 PSBank's petition to issue a TRO on the Senate subpoena for the bank to submit records of Corona's dollar deposits, citing the law on foreign currency deposits (RA 6426) that classifies foreign currency deposits as "absolutely confidential."

"(E)xcept upon the written permission of the depositor, in no instance shall foreign currency deposits be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office whether judicial or administrative or legislative, or any other entity whether public or private," states RA 6426.

In his dissenting opinion, however, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the guarantee of secrecy under the foreign currency law applies to nonresidents to encourage the inflow of foreign currency deposits into the country.

He said the TRO makes a mockery of all existing laws designed to ensure transparency and good governance in public service as it will encourage government officials and employees to hide their true wealth under a foreign currency bank account.

The Supreme Court en banc is expected to decide on PSBank's petition on Tuesday before it goes on a break.

Signed in 2001, the Anti-Money Laundering Act or RA 9160 defines money laundering as a crime whereby the proceeds of an unlawful activity are transacted or attempted to be transacted to make them appear to have originated from legitimate sources.

The law requires banks and similar institutions to report to the AMLC within five working days any transaction that exceeds P500,000 within one banking day, called a "covered transaction," and "suspicious transactions."

A transaction, regardless of the amount, can be considered "suspicions" for the following reasons:

•             There is no underlying legal or trade obligation, purpose or economic justification.

•             The client is not properly identified.

•             The amount involved is not commensurate with the business or financial capacity of the client.

•             It may be perceived that the client's transaction is structured in order to avoid being the subject of reporting requirements under the AMLA.

•             Any circumstance relating to the transaction which is observed to deviate from the profile of the client and/or the client's past transactions with the covered institution.

•             The transaction is in any way related to an unlawful activity or any money laundering activity or offense under this act that is about to be, is being or has been committed.

When he took the witness stand last month, PSBank President Pascual Garcia III said a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas examiner told the bank to put the notation "PEP" on Corona's records.

Under AMLC rules, elected and appointed public officials are considered "politically exposed persons" or PEP. — with Yvonne T. Chua

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")

  • Happy Earth Day! The 8 Biggest Mysteries of Our Planet
    Happy Earth Day! The 8 Biggest Mysteries of Our Planet

    When the first Earth Day was held in 1970, geologists were still putting the finishing touches on plate tectonics, the model that explains how the Earth's surface takes shape. For today's Earth day, here are some of Earth's biggest unsolved mysteries. Scientists think Earth was a dry rock after it coalesced 4.5 billion years ago. But the beginnings of Earth's water are shrouded in mystery because so little rock evidence remains from this time period. …

  • Angel calls birthday boy Luis ‘amazing’
    Angel calls birthday boy Luis ‘amazing’

    [caption id="attachment_130927" align="alignright" width="300"] Angel Locsin and Luis Manzano (Instagram)[/caption] Angel Locsin is extra sweet to boyfriend Luis Manzano today, with the latter commemorating his 33rd birthday. The actress authorized Sagip Kapamilya Foundation to auction the 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle, which is her dream car. …

  • Miss America defends student suspended for asking her to prom
    Miss America defends student suspended for asking her to prom

    By Chris Francescani NEW YORK (Reuters) - Miss America has suggested officials at a Pennsylvania high school reconsider their decision to suspend a student for approaching her at a school assembly and asking her to be his prom date, the beauty queen said on Saturday. The disciplinary action taken by school administrators in York against the 18-year-old senior made national headlines, and generated sympathy for the young man on social media. A video of Central York High School senior Patrick …

  • Vatican dismisses criticism of John Paul II over abuses
    Vatican dismisses criticism of John Paul II over abuses

    The Vatican on Tuesday brushed off accusations that late pope John Paul II was aware of and ignored allegations about sexual abuse carried by the Mexican founder of a powerful Catholic movement. "There is no personal implication of the Holy Father in this affair," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told a news conference on Sunday's ceremony to confer sainthood on popes John Paul II and John XXIII. The scandal over Marcial Maciel, who founded the Legion of Christ and was a serial predator, …

  • After Oppo, Here Comes Zopo
    After Oppo, Here Comes Zopo

    Oppo, a Chinese mobile phone brand, is bringing to the country the Find 7, Find 7a, Find 5 Mini, N1, R1, and the Neo. A few days after the brand’s launch, NOVO7Tech teased on its Facebook fan page the arrival of another Chinese label, Zopo Mobile. Based in Shenzhen, Zopo Mobile was established in 2012. …

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Happy Earth Day! The 8 Biggest Mysteries of Our Planet

    Happy Earth Day! The 8 Biggest Mysteries of Our Planet

    LiveScience.com - Tue, Apr 22, 2014
    Happy Earth Day! The 8 Biggest Mysteries of Our Planet

    When the first Earth Day was held in 1970, geologists were still putting the finishing touches on plate tectonics, the model that explains how the Earth's surface takes shape. For today's Earth day, here are some of Earth's biggest unsolved mysteries. Scientists think Earth was a dry rock after it coalesced 4.5 billion years ago. But the beginnings of Earth's water are shrouded in mystery because so little rock evidence remains from this time period. …

  • David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    Associated Press - 3 hours ago
    David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Statement released by David Moyes on Wednesday, a day after being fired as manager of Manchester United after less than a season in charge. …

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    AFP News - 13 hours ago
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca …

POLL
Loading...
Poll Choice Options