Bangko Sentral refuses to comply with Comelec order limiting cash withdrawals

(Updated 5:31 a.m., 5/8/13) The Comelec on Tuesday shocked the banking and commercial industries, not to mention ill-intentioned political candidates, by ordering a limit on cash withdrawals to curb vote buying in the last days before election day on May 13. But the Bangko Sentral is resisting, asserting that it would "disrupt normal business and commercial transactions in the Philippines." The Comelec resolution seeks to prohibit cash withdrawals of more than P100,000 in a single day or carrying cash exceeding P500,000. In a statement issued Tuesday night, the central bank stated its objections to the rule: "Limiting cash withdrawal and check clearing beyond [P100,000] may disrupt normal business and commercial transactions in the Philippines," it said. "The BSP is also constrained from enforcing the Comelec resolution because this would necessarily entail looking into bank deposit accounts. This is essentially unsound and in violation of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 1405, as amended (Secrecy on Peso deposits), and R.A. No. 6426 (Secrecy on foreign currency deposits)," it added. Only cash withdrawals Brillantes defended the Comelec's proposal, saying it will only seek to control cash withdrawals. “Puro cash ito, which means trade and industry will not be affected,” he said. He added people could still issue checks: “I-control mo lang yung withdrawals ng cash. Cash lang, it means you can issue as many checks as you like, as many as big amounts you would like but not cash.” “Wala namang namimili ng boto ng tseke,” Brillantes pointed out. Resolution 9688, issued May 7, also empowers ordinary citizens to arrest vote buyers and vote sellers. “Persons who committed, [are] actually committing or [are] attempting to commit vote-buying and vote-selling, an election offense, can be arrested by any law enforcement officer or private person without warrant,” the resolution read. It is the first time the Comelec has imposed a "money ban" in connection with elections. The Comelec said these steps are part of its "multi-tiered approach to prevent and apprehend vote buyers, particularly the regulation and control of the flow of cash, which is the primary medium used in vote-buying." The resolution stated that all cash being transported and carried exceeding half a million “shall be presumed for the purpose of vote buying and electoral fraud in violation of the money ban.” Non-cash transactions, however, are not covered in the resolution. Government financial agencies led by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which has control over banks, finance companies, quasi-banks, pawnshops, remittance companies and institutions, have been deputized to strictly implement the resolution. It was not clear Tuesday night whether Comelec would still try to force the Bangko Sentral to enforce its order. Money ban checkpoints The Comelec checkpoints all over the country are directed to conduct a money ban checkpoint, in addition to the gun ban check point, the resolution further stated. The checkpoint provision, however, shall not apply to farmers, merchants and other persons traveling to and from Manila or other business destinations in the ordinary course of their business upon presentation of proof of their occupation and the transaction which generated the cash exceeding the threshold. The resolution stated that all cash withdrawals, encashment of checks or series of withdrawals or encashments involving a total amount of

P500,000 within one banking day from May 8 to Election Day shall be presumed for the purpose of accumulating funds for vote-buying and election fraud and be treated as “suspicious transactions” under the Anti-Money Laundering Law. The deposit and related accounts of those with “suspicious transactions” will be monitored and investigated and will be examined by the Anti-Money Laundering Council. Entrapment ops The National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police Intelligence Services are directed to conduct surveillance and intelligence operations to counter vote-buying and entrap vote-buyers and vote-sellers. The Comelec en banc said it may exempt government agencies ad instrumentalities, private persons and entities from the resolution on valid and exigent grounds. In urgent cases, respective provincial election supervisor or regional director may also issue exemptions that shall be valid unless revoked by the en banc or the chairman. — KBK/HS/BM, GMA News