MANILA, Philippines — Representatives of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the Luzon Development Bank (LDB) were mum when asked by senators about the allegedly questionable transaction happening in the LDB.
The senators were referring, among others, to the alleged questionable bank account of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista.
The management of the bank said they are not allowed to provide information in public due to the existing Bank Secrecy Law.
But the LDB assured senators they are following the regulations of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and AMLC when it comes to suspicious accounts.
“Indeed the bank has submitted in the past suspicious transactions,” LDB president & director David Sarmiento Jr. said.
Based on the accusation of Bautista’s wife, Patricia Bautista, the poll chief has 35 bank accounts in the LDB.
She further alleged the balance of these bank accounts reaches up to P329-million, which she claims is contrary to her husband’s declared wealth in his Statement of Assets Liabilities and Networth (SALN).
In line with this, the AMLC and NBI are now investigating the Laguna-based thrift bank about the said issue.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Anti-Fraud Division claims it has discovered suspicious accounts in the said bank.
The NBI unit said, these accounts were opened in 2012, and closed in 2016.
“We also discovered that . . . sequestered company or surrendered companies under PCGG maintained accounts with Luzon Development Bank, ” NBI-Anti-Fraud Division Executive Officer Atty. Minerva Retanal said.
Mrs. Bautista’s legal adviser Atty. Lorna Kapunan said, one of the matters the poll chief should explain is why the confiscated wealth did not go to the central bank.
“Because by the nature of sequestered companies they are already determined to be ill-gotten wealth and therefore confiscated funds which should go to government banks,” Kapunan said.
It has yet to be detailed in the Senate inquiry the overall balance of the accounts, and where it was transferred.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, questioned the authority of the NBI to conduct an investigation into the said issue.
“The NBI is not above the law, they have to secure a court order before they can examine any account of any citizen not only of Chairman Bautista,” Drilon said.
Senator Francis Escudero challenged Comelec Chairman Bautista to allow authorities to look into his bank accounts.
“The only way is when Chairman Bautista executes a waiver of the Bank Secrecy Law. Many have watched his announcement that he is willing to open, and to subject himself to any investigation,” Sen. Escudero said.
The Senate plans to invite the poll chief in the next hearing on the matter to give him the chance to defend himself against the allegations. – Nel Maribojoc | UNTV News & Rescue