Serge, Grace chime in on lifting bank secrecy

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 25 2014 03:47 PM | Updated as of Mar 26 2014 12:06 AM

MANILA - Two senators on Tuesday gave their opinions on the proposal of Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares to lift the bank secrecy law for tax purposes.

Senator Sergio Osmeña III said he supports the proposal to lift the bank secrecy law to help improve tax collection.

"I have always been in favor of lifting it but I cannot get it passed here," Osmeña said.

He cited the American example where the Internal Revenue Service, "with good reason," can go to court and ask for permission to look into a bank account.

"In our country, when you say I am violating the law, you have to prove it. When you say I am evading taxes, you will have to prove it. In America, it's the other way around. When they say you are evading taxes, I have to prove that I earned it and how did I earn it. So mas madali doon," he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe said the proposal to lift bank secrecy should be studied carefully saying that it should be balanced with the right to privacy.

"'Yung trabaho ng BIR commissioner is to exhaust all means to collect taxes. On the other hand, government agencies should also be able to balance the interest of the public as a whole, so in our desire to be able to collect taxes, are we violating the rights of others? Are we making another sector jittery, for example, the investors of our country if our bank secrecy laws are loosened?" she said.

Sen. Francis Escudero has said existing laws, including the bank secrecy law and the Anti-Money Laundering Act, already authorize the BIR to conduct financial probes on certain individuals for tax purposes.

Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, said he has filed a bill requiring all public officials to sign a waiver of the secrecy of their bank deposits with the filing of their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Sen. Nancy Binay said the BIR proposal might cause a chilling effect not only on the general population but also the banking industry.

“I understand where Commissioner Kim is coming from as far as taxation is concerned, but her proposal has a chilling effect on the banking industry since there are more disadvantages than advantages,” she said.

She said peace and order issues, including kidnapping, should be given priority over Henares’ proposal.

Sen. Tito Sotto, meanwhile, proposed that the BIR submit a draft measure to Congress "so we can debate on the issue." With a report by the Philippine Star