MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Tuesday fired back at businessman Roberto V. Ongpin, who has threatened to file a graft case against BSP Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla.
In a statement, the BSP defended Espenilla, a career central banker for over three decades, saying "he has provided excellent reforms-oriented leadership as sector-in-charge of the BSP's banking supervision and examination sector."
Last Friday, Ongpin said he will file a criminal complaint against Espenilla for alleged violation of the anti-graft law. He claimed the violation occurred after the Anti Money Laundering Council sought a a freeze on his bank accounts, when Espenilla already cleared the former Trade minister's transactions with Development Bank of the Philippines.
The BSP noted that Espenilla was designated as BSP officer-in-charge and acting chairman of the AMLC in place of BSP Governor Amando Tetangco, Jr., who was away on official business, when the petition to the Court of Appeals for the freezing of Ongpin's accounts were presented to the AMLC.
The central bank further said any decision of the AMLC is approved not just by the head of the BSP but also the heads of the Insurance Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission.
"The BSP notes with concern therefore that Mr. Ongpin singles out BSP Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. as the cause of the freezing of his accounts. He claims that 'Espenilla has caused my reputation the gravest damage by his signing an ex-parte petition with the Court of Appeals that my bank accounts be frozen'," the BSP said.
"Mr. Ongpin is wrong. The CA said probable cause exists to freeze the subject bank accounts based on the AMLC petition filed by the lawyers of the Office of the Solicitor General, the AMLC' statutory counsel."
The Ombudsman last September had issued a resolution finding probable cause to indict Ongpin along with other respondents in the criminal case filed by the DBP related to loans granted to aquire shares of Philex Mining Corp. The Ombudsman found the facts indicated violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and that money laundering may have been committed, so it referred the matter to the AMLC.
Reuters reported the CA issued an order on December 6 on a temporary freeze on about 100 bank accounts linked to Ongpin, the country's ninth-richest man, following charges he obtained preferential loans from DBP.
On the deferral of Ongpin's confirmation
Ongpin also criticized the BSP for deferring action on his election as co-chairman and director of his own bank, the Philippine Bank of Communications. He quit the board, saying the decision of the Monetary Board "clearly will undermine the operations of the bank and may result in major depositors losing confidence in the bank." He later sold his shares in PBCom to his nephew.
However, the BSP said it simply deferred Ongpin's confirmation "pending completion of assessment of certain material information.
"As an independent central monetary authority, the BSP has the responsibility to ensure that careful evaluation of critical elements is made before final decisions are promulgated," the BSP said.