PSBank: AMLC audited Corona accounts

by Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Feb 20 2012 04:05 PM | Updated as of Feb 21 2012 05:05 AM

AMLC denied it audited CJ's accounts, says TG Guingona

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) - The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) audited Chief Justice Renato Corona’s bank accounts in 2011, Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) Pascual Garcia said on Monday.

Testifying on day 20 of the impeachment trial, Garcia said the AMLC, with a team from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), asked for records of certain bank accounts, including those of Corona’s, in 2010.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile asked Garcia: “Are they authorized to make photocopies?” Garcia said: “I’m not certain, your honor.”

“Is it possible that the record in question before us was accessed by the audit team?” Enrile asked. “I believe from the nature of the comment [of the audit team], they saw the specimen card or a copy of it,” Garcia said.

Enrile later said: “I will tell you frankly. We have people who handled the records of the respondent from the Katipunan branch. We have people there and the president. None other could possibly brought out those documents like the one attached in the [supplemental request of the prosecution]. The only thing not scrutinized…is that it was accessed by the AMLC and the BSP.”

During the 2-month audit which began in September 2010, Garcia said the bank was asked by AMLC if they adopt the proper reporting requirements, such as if an account should be classified as one owned by a politically-exposed person (PEP) such as politicians or political appointees with high positions in government. Since Corona's account was not properly classified, Garcia said they adopted the PEP classification in the document.

Signature card

The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, tried anew to ferret out how the prosecution was able to secure a copy of the supposed dollar account of Corona.

They are trying to check the source of the document, which will be relevant if the court will later rule on its admissibility as evidence as well as its impact on the subpoena issued by the court.

If proven that the document came from the government, the evidence will likely not be accepted by the court since it falls under the exclusionary rule. The Bill of Rights, in particular Article III, provides that people should be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Rep. Rey Umali earlier said he got a copy of the document from a “small lady” on February 2.

Last week, prosecution panel spokesman Miro Quimbo denied that the documents came from the AMLC. He said they explored the possibility of getting AMLC's assistance, but noted that the council had very strict requirements before a bank account can be opened for scrutiny.

The AMLA authorizes the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to "inquire or examine any deposit or investment with any banking institution without court order in the course of a periodic or special examination." Amendments to the AMLA lowered the threshold for examinations into transactions from P4 million to P500,000.

The AMLC is composed of the BSP governor as Chairman and the commissioner of the Insurance Commission and the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission as members.

AMLC denies auditing CJ account

Senator-judge Teofisto “TG” Guingona III said he called AMLC and the council categorically denied auditing the accounts of Corona.

Guingona told Garcia: “Are you aware that AMLC only audits if there’s existence of a court order or predicate crime?” He said Garcia may have been confused since the audit could just be a regular process by the BSP, which was done for them by AMLC specialists.

Senator-judge Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said, however, that “for them to be able to say that the ‘PEP’ designation was absent [in the sign card], they must have seen the signature card, so they must be an AMLC examiner.”

Garcia identified the "AMLC specialist" who was designated to PSBank as "Mr. Jerry Leal."

However, he clarified that the AMLC specialist just checks whether the accounts are properly classified, but did not look into the balances of the accounts. He said the BSP does not check signature cards in its examinations.

Based on the BSP audit report, Garcia said there were 8 accounts in their bank that were not properly classified.

Senator-judge Joker Arroyo said he finds it “disturbing” that AMLC can be used for “political vendetta.”

“Now it’s the Chief Justice. Tomorrow, if we offend Malacañang, if we don’t follow, they can proceed against us through information gathered by AMLC. It’s a disturbing thought,” Arroyo said.

42 points of differences

Senator-judge Jinggoy Estrada insisted that the prosecution’s copy is not a fake.

“Nung ito’y ino-audit ng AMLC, isa sa mga opisyal, ini-xerox ang signature card at itinago. Nung pumutok ang impeachment, saka na lang inabot sa isang miyembro ng prosecution,” he alleged.

Garcia said the specimen card in the possession of the prosecution has 42 points of differences with the original one.

He said he noticed “visible tremors” which showed that the supposed signature of Chief Justice Renato Corona was “traced.”

Some of the numerals in the signature card are also not too visible in the copy presented by the prosecution in their request to subpoena the supposed dollar account of Corona.

'Resembling the original’

PSBank Katipunan branch manager Annabelle Tiongson took the stand anew and narrated how she was approached by Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal as early as January 31 regarding the specimen card he received from an anonymous source.

She said she was “shocked” to learn that Banal had something that “resembled” the bank’s signature cards.

She said she had her branch service and control officer check if the “original” documents were still in the vault.

She said she made a call later to different bank officials, which led to a meeting with top honchos later that day on January 31 in a restaurant in Quezon City.

Garcia said he ordered their branch banking head to secure the documents the following day. He also reminded explicitly the bank officials to respect the secrecy of bank deposits.

Miriam: Who’s the thief?

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago also later took the floor, noting that whoever took possession of a document, no matter the circumstances, should be able to explain how he or she got hold of it.

She cited Rule 131, Section 3 of the Rule on Evidence which states that “a person found in possession of a thing taken in the doing of a recent wrongful act is the taker and the doer of the whole act; otherwise, the things which a person possess, or exercises acts of ownership over, are owned by him.”

This is part of the “disputable presumption” of evidence. This means that the presumption is satisfactory unless contradicted. The ball is now in the court of the prosecution to explain the matter.

She said: “Normally, short ladies – short, long, tall white, etcetera – do not give us documents unless we know her or if she is anonymous, we stop her. I have done that many times when I step out of the session hall…”

“That is normally what a politician does. We don’t just accept pieces of paper. In my case, because of threats to my position and in a prior life, I’m careful to identify the person who is giving me something especially if it is in the form of a package that I cannot visibly see from outside,” she added.

She noted: “Sukat kang binigyan ng envelope, wala kang pakialam? Tapos binuksan mo na lang: Voila!...Ngayon, sasabihin mo sa akin, hindi mo maipaliwanag iyan. Ang ibig sabihin, ikaw ang nagnakaw niyan.”

This is similar to a person who is presumed to be the pickpocket if a lost wallet is seen in his or her possession, she said.

The defense had said they are seriously filing criminal raps against Banal and Umali.