MANILA, Philippines – Allies of President Aquino are defending the President for his refusal to sign a waiver to lift the confidentiality of his bank accounts.
Public pressure has been mounting on Aquino to waive the privacy of his bank accounts after former Chief Justice Renato Corona waived his privacy to his bank accounts.
Sought for comment, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said that while the President has nothing to hide, he is also still entitled to his privacy. “I don’t think Noynoy is hiding anything. A person has innate aversion to let the world know what you’re doing.”
Reminded that Aquino himself promised to make the waiver during the 2010 presidential campaign, Osmeña said: “Political promises are made to be broken once in a while.”
“Pagbigyan naman natin si Noynoy. The guy wants to be private naman. You’re looking into his lovelife, his car life his gun life - he has no more privacy,” he added.
Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, a party mate of the President, also came to Aquino’s defense.
“I guess that’s up to him. That’s the level of privacy that he wants to maintain,” he said.
He added that he has no objection to signing a similar waiver especially after he voted for Corona’s conviction in the impeachment trial.
No double standard
Osmeña dismissed criticism that Aquino’s failure to signing a waiver is a “double standard” especially after Corona signed a waiver during his trial.
He noted that Corona was forced to sign the waiver after an Anti-Money Laundering Council report showed that he had 82 dollar accounts in 8 years since joining the Supreme Court.
“Double standard of whom? Nobody has signed a waiver. Naipit si [Corona] but the thing is - wag mo pakita sa lahat. Leave it with the courts. Sa korte, yes you can look at mine but don’t tell the world I have 5 pesos in the bank. It’s human nature. In the Anti-Money Laundering Act, we already have courts that have access. We just have to apply that to all government officials,” he said.
The senator said unbridled access to bank accounts has its disadvantage such as making the depositor prone to blackmail.
Sen. Francis Escudero has a pending bill waiving the confidentiality of bank records of government officials, something Osmeña doubts will be approved even if he personally supports it.
“Ayoko mag-comment. I’m sure he has his reason for insisting on that. Essentially, any intelligent person will, not put it (illegal money) in his bank account. Corona was not too intelligent,” Osmeña said.
The senator said the House of Representatives won’t even release the SALNs of its members. He said one way to make sure pubic officials don’t steal is to clean up the judiciary.
Balancing privacy, AMLA
Guingona said they have to balance a person’s right to privacy with the requirements of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA). He said government officials already file their SALNs.
Instead of a waiver, Osmeña instead proposes that the government be given access to bank records with a court order that can be issued without the court informing the depositor.
He said this is a practice in many Western countries.
Osmeña said that under the present law, a depositor can withdraw his money once a court informs him that the accounts are to be investigated. Currently, the AMLC can only investigate a bank account with a court order. The court won’t give an order unless the case is heard first and the depositor is informed.
Osmeña said Corona’s own $2.4 million may have already been withdrawn.
”Believe me, wala na yun. Come on. If I were him, natural I’d send it to Hong Kong already or Singapore. How will we dig that up now?” he asked.
He also said the government must pursue cases against Corona or else the impeachment will have been pointless.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño, meantime, expressed his disappointment at Aquino’s refusal to sign a waiver on his bank accounts.
“President Aquino missed the point entirely. Due to our bank secrecy laws, the waivers become the litmus test for public officials to show that they are transparent and have nothing to hide. The question now is - may tinatago ba siya?” Casiño said.
He said the President missed the chance to set a good example for greater transparency and accountability in the aftermath of the Corona impeachment.
"Sa ating karanasan kay Corona, hindi na sapat ang simpleng paglabas ng SALN. Ang gustong malaman ng tao ngayon ay kung totoo ba o hindi ang idinedeklara natin sa ating SALN. Kaya nagiging importante ngayon ang waiver,” he said.
“President Aquino should look beyond Corona's stunt because that is over. Ang kailangan natin ngayon ay isang bagong pamantayan ng pananagutan sa mamamayan at hindi ng mga palusot,” he added.
Casiño said the President's apprehension that the waiver may be used against him is misplaced. He said the President could address the waiver to the Ombudsman so that only that office can access his accounts.
Last Wednesday, Casiño and fellow Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares, Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano, Gabriela Women’s party Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, Act Teachers partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio and Kabataan partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino signed waivers on their bank accounts in favor of the Ombudsman. They are calling on the President and other public officials to do the same.