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Amend Foreign Currency Deposits Act; Drop Public Officers from Absolute Confidentiality Protection!

May 31, 2012

Three days prior to the most awaited Corona impeachment judgment day, I told a political Facebook group that public officers,

No more lies and jokes, Mr. President. Just get down to business.

both elected and appointed, should be not protected by the Foreign Currency Deposits Act’s absolute confidentiality clause.

I made the following statement: “I believe that every politician in this country, upon election to public office, should sign a waiver allowing graft courts to examine their dollar accounts. Only private individuals should be entitled to foreign account secrecy law.”

Then someone asked: “Pwede ba nating i-exercise ang right to inquire based waiver niya? hindi ba yun limited sa mga Senator-judges?”

My answer is as follows: “[name omitted] sa court lang dapat, whether it be an impeachment court or a regular court… Only courts would have the power or authority to inquire into an official’s (both elected and appointed) foreign bank account.”

I believe that’s one option. But I agree with Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago’s suggestion on May 28 that the lawmakers should amend the law to exclude public officers from the absolute confidentiality protection.

The good senator made the following statement:

“There is no conflict between the Constitution and the Foreign Currency Act. The perceived conflict is so simplistic that it is seriously laughable. If there is any conflict, it is between the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards, which provides for a waiver of confidentiality; and the Foreign Currency Act, which provides for absolute confidentiality.

“It is for Congress to balance on the one hand, the need for public accountability from public officers; with, on the other hand, the desperate need for foreign investment, which entails confidentiality, on pain of driving away investors from our country. The argument that a dollar deposit protected from inquiry would nullify the principle of transparency is for Congress to resolve. Bigyan natin ng solusyon ang problema. We could retain the absolute confidentiality clause, with the amendment that Filipino public officers are not protected. Yun ang dapat gagawin natin.”

That’s exactly what our lawmakers should do. But are they willing to do that?

What did some of our lawmakers do in order to show that they’re willing to accept Corona’s challenge? They somehow expressed their willingness to sign a waiver? But is that enough? HELL NO!

Section 8 of Republic Act 6426 provides:

Section 8. Secrecy of foreign currency deposits. – All foreign currency deposits authorized under this Act, as amended by PD No. 1035, as well as foreign currency deposits authorized under PD No. 1034, are hereby declared as and considered of an absolutely confidential nature and, except upon the written permission of the depositor, in no instance shall foreign currency deposits be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office whether judicial or administrative or legislative, or any other entity whether public or private; Provided, however, That said foreign currency deposits shall be exempt from attachment, garnishment, or any other order or process of any court, legislative body, government agency or any administrative body whatsoever. (As amended by PD No. 1035, and further amended by PD No. 1246, prom. Nov. 21, 1977.)

The only possible solution is to amend the law in order to exclude all public officers from the absolute confidentiality protection. That’s the best and most practical solution.

However, I don’t think Pres. Aquino has the courage to instruct his Congress boys to do the right thing. That’s not forthcoming. Pustahan pa tayo! 

The following Inquirer report states the President is not willing to sign a waiver:

President Benigno Aquino III is not waiving his right under the laws to keep his bank accounts confidential even after Renato Corona’s removal as Chief Justice for untruthful declaration of wealth.

Speaking at a news conference in Malacañang Thursday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte confirmed that Mr. Aquino declared during the presidential campaign in 2010 that he would waive his privilege of secrecy under the country’s banking laws if elected President.

Valte said, however, that Mr. Aquino wouldn’t sign any such waiver at this time.

“Let’s go back to the context,” Valte said. “It was the accused [Corona] who issued the challenge to every Tom, Dick and Harry who was willing to take on his dare. Is it fair to put the President, who has not been accused of graft, who has not been accused of dishonesty, in the same category as the man who was just removed from his post?”

Valte was answering questions raised by Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano’s call for a new standard in his explanation for his vote to convict Corona on Tuesday.

Corona submitted a waiver to the Senate impeachment court on May 25—too late and useless, as he had already admitted keeping $2.4 million and P80 million in bank accounts that he did not report in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

“I ask the President to instruct his Cabinet to sign the waivers or resign and leave the government,” Cayetano said. “Lead by following, or get out of the way.”

Cayetano proposed waivers for all executive officials, members of Congress and the judiciary.

Not accused

But Valte insisted that the President was not issuing a waiver.

“You have to remember that this all came about because one man was on the stand, was being accused of something,” Valte said. “Do we put other people in the same situation even when they are not being accused of hiding anything?”

The President and the members of his Cabinet have all declared their assets, Valte said. Their SALNs have been available to the public since they were sworn into office, she said.

See? Our bachelor in the palace has no palabra de honor. That’s actually one of his so many campaign promises. If he’s not willing to sign a waiver, then the more he’s unwilling to call for the amendment of the foreign currency deposits act.

Folks, you’ve been fooled!

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