Bill amending bank secrecy hurdles House 2nd reading

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 20 2023 08:34 PM

MANILA - A bill seeking to give more powers to the central bank to probe bank deposits has advanced in the House of Representatives.

House lawmakers approved on second reading House Bill 7446 which amends Republic Act 1405 or the "Secrecy of Bank Deposits Law" to empower the Bangko Sentral to investigate bank deposits.

According to its committee fact sheet, the bill seeks to lift the barriers in the effective investigation and prosecution of corrupt or illegal financial actions of stockholders, owners, directors, trustees, officers or employees of entities supervised and regulated by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

It also aims to combat tax evasion, money laundering and other financial crimes, address the unintended consequences of bank secrecy laws, and comply with international standards on transparency in financial transactions.

The bill empowers the BSP to inquire into or examine deposits in the course of its investigation of closed banks, or when there are suspicions of fraud or serious irregularity.

It also limits the use of the results of bank examinations exclusively to the BSP, Securities and Exchange Commission, Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, Anti-Money Laundering Council, Department of Justice, and the courts. 

It likewise provides a safe harbor clause exempting banks or financial institutions, their directors, officers, or employees from any action, claim, demand, or liability, for acts done in compliance with an order of inquiry or examination of deposits from the BSP.

The bill also forbids the use of the Bank Secrecy Law for persecution or harassment, or as an instrument to hamper competition in trade and commerce.

The House is expected to vote on the bill on final reading in 3 days.