MANILA, Philippines - Saying it is a mere fishing expedition, the Court of Appeals (CA) quashed the government’s bid to run after the assets of former military budget officer George Rabusa and his family for supposedly being ill-gotten.
In a ten-page decision penned by Associate Justice Socorro Inting, the ninth division of the appellate court said the Office of the Ombudsman does not even have the proper consent for the opening of the bank accounts of Rabusa, his wife Ma. Debbie, and father-in-law Feliz Arevalo. It noted that the laws on bank secrecy are paramount.
The appellate court said there was no court order for the opening of their local accounts, which is against the General Banking Act.
A provision there states that “no director, officer, employer or agent shall, without order of a court of competent jurisdiction, disclose to any unauthorized person any information relative to the funds of properties in the custody of the bank belonging to private individuals, corporations, or any entity.”
It also noted the government failed to get the Rabusas’ consent insofar as their dollar assets are concerned. This is a requirement under section 8 of the Foreign Currency Deposit Act.
“The raison d' etre (reason for existing) of the law prohibiting disclosure of or inquiry into, deposits with any banking institution is to give encouragement to the people to deposit their money in banking institutions and to discourage private hoarding so that the same may be properly utilized by banks in authorized loans to assist in the economic development of the country,” the ruling read.
Rabusa emerged in a 2011 Senate investigation and disclosed that military funds had been misappropriated and converted to cash to be given to the Armed Forces’ chiefs of staff.
Prior to all these, however, Rabusa was already being monitored himself. The Office of the Ombudsman went to the Makati Regional Trial Court seeking a forfeiture of supposedly illegal assets.
The government claimed that since his employment on March 15, 1981 up to the filing of the petition on December 6, 2004, Rabusa supposedly amassed wealth more than what was declared in his statements of asset, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).
Rabusa denied the charges, however, which the trial court agreed with.