‘Routine’ transactions exempt from ‘money ban’

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By Mikha Flores, VERA Files

THE Commission on Elections is standing pat on its order imposing caps on cash withdrawals but has relaxed it to accommodate concerns of businessmen and monetary authorities.

Comelec promulgated Thursday Resolution 9688-A amending its earlier resolution putting a P100, 000 limit a day for cash withdrawals and checks clearing. Withdrawals that are “routine, regular and made in the ordinary course of business”      are not covered by the ban.

“While we are still limiting it to P100,000  per day, we’re giving discretion to the banks and bank tellers or the bank officials since they have what is known as a customer relationship,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said.

Alam nila kung sino ang kanilang mga customer at depositor na nagwiwithdraw regularly ng lampas P100, 000 (The banks know their customers and depositors who regularly withdraws more than P100, 000). This will all fall under the exemption,” he said.

“In essence, what we’re saying is we are concerned likewise about commerce and business,” said the election chief whose decision to place caps on withdrawals to curb vote-buying raised eyebrows and elicited a polite but strong rejection from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

The BSP, which has regulatory authority over the banking industry, said the restrictions “may not be the best way to achieve the goal of ensuring clean and honest elections” as this could disrupt normal business and commercial transactions in the country.

A business leader called it a haphazard measure and implementing it was like “declaring a business holiday” in the country. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima expressed reservations about the constitutionality of the order while President Benigno Aquino ordered the Cabinet’s economic cluster to study the resolution.

Comelec also relaxed its position that the possession and transport of more than P500, 000 is to be presumed for use in vote-buying and electoral fraud as it set rules on Comelec checkpoints enforcing the money ban.

Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel manning the checkpoints should “impose minimum inconvenience” on persons being searched to avoid violations of civil and political rights, the Comelec said.

Searches should also be authorized by a search warrant. Warant-less searches are allowed but only on select cases like a moving vehicle containing more than half a million cash in plain view or if the occupants of the vehicle appear nervous or suspicious.

While well-intentioned, the searches will be difficult to enforce and PNP officials appear ambivalent in implementing the order.

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

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