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Submit bank waiver, Comelec chief urged

By: Hannah L. Torregoza

The Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies urged Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista to just issue a waiver that would allow the Luzon Bank Development (LDB) to open his bank accounts.

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chair of the banks panel said, it is best that the poll body chief, as the depositor, initiates the issuance of a waiver so the committee can freely investigate his alleged 35 bank accounts with the rural bank and scrutinize it for possible liabilities or violations on the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).

Escudero’s committee has started its investigation into Bautista’s alleged hidden wealth yesterday, and also to determine whether LDB failed to report to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) any suspicious transactions committed by a Politically Exposed Person (PEP).

But the committee failed to get any new information regarding the supposed bank accounts of Bautista despite the presence of LDB officials and resource persons from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

All sectors cited the prohibition under the Bank Secrecy Law to divulge confidential information when asked to confirm whether the 35 passbooks Bautista’s wife, Patricia earlier produced and showed in media interviews, indeed belonged to the Comelec chair.

David Sarmiento, LDB president, reiterated that the bank complied with its duty to file suspicious transaction reports (STRs) regarding deposits, and insisted that they strictly follow all necessary procedures when it comes to the opening of accounts by PEPs, their immediate family and close associates.

“Clearly the BSL poses a big hindrance, and the only way to overcome this, even on the part of the banks, who I am sure they are more than willing to answer our questions is for a court order, or an impeachment case, or if the depositor himself issues a waiver,” Escudero said during the hearing.