Comelec chief urged to show up in Senate probe or submit bank waiver

MANILA -- If Commission on Elections (Comelec) Andres Bautista cannot attend the next Senate panel hearing into his alleged ill-gotten wealth, he will have to execute a waiver to allow his bank to freely speak about his transactions, Senator Francis Escudero said Wednesday.

Escudero, chair of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, made this statement after Senator Grace Poe moved to invite Bautista to the next Senate hearing into his unexplained wealth to give him a chance to defend himself.

Siguro nararapat na kung magkakaroon tayo ng pangalawang pagdinig marahil ay mas makakatulong sa ating imbestigasyon kung ang mismong pinaguusapan nating depositor (Perhaps it is only right that there will be a second hearing because it will help our investigation if the person we are talking about here -- the depositor -- would be invited), Poe said during the first hearing into the controversy now hounding the Comelec chief.

Pagkakataon niyang depensahan ang kanyang sarili at sabihin kung ano ba talaga dito ang kanya at ano ang hindi (It would his chance to defend himself and tell us which are his accounts and which aren't), she added.

Escudero said that if Bautista could not attend the hearing, he should submit a waiver to his bank, the Luzon Development Bank (LDB), to allow the Senate committee to proceed with the hearing without legal blocks.

He pointed out that Bautista has previously stated his willingness to cooperate and clear his name but has not said anything about signing a waiver.

During the hearing, representatives from LDB were privy to the details on Bautista's suspicious transactions noting that they could not violate the Bank Secrecy Law.

LDB Senior Vice President Gerardo Auson Jr. stressed that although they monitored the said suspicious transactions, there were not allowed to divulge these.

Escudero said that his committee is currently in the process of repealing the Bank Secrecy Law as the Philippines, aside from Lebanon, is the only country that continues to implement this law.

Malaking hadlang talaga ang Bank Secrecy Law. Gumagalaw na kami para ma-repeal ang Bank Secrecy Law para hindi na ito magamit na hadlang o harang sa anumang imbestigasyon laban sa sinumang opisyal (The Bank Secrecy Law is a big legal block. We are already working to repeal this law so that it may no longer be used as a legal block to investigate any official), Escudero told reporters.

For the meantime, Escudero reiterated that Bautista should execute a waiver to allow the LDB to speak about the said transactions without violating the law.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), for its part, said that it is currently probing possible AMLA violation by LDB.

Source: Philippine News Agency

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