INTERVIEW

AMBUSH INTERVIEW

LOCATION: SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES 

SENATOR CHIZ ESCUDERO (CHIZ):  Well, we are currently in the process of finalizing a committee report that, among others, would repeal the Bank Secrecy Law right now, and similar other laws replacing it with a Bank Disclosure Act providing for mechanisms whereby it can be disclosed under certain circumstances. For example, aside from the waiver of the depositor, it would also include a lawful order emanating from any court, any investigative body, for example the NBI, the counterpart of the FBI, the AMLC of course, the BSP, the BIR, and also by Congress.

I believe last time we checked, we are one of the last two countries with bank secrecy laws. Lebanon, if I’m not mistaken being the other one. But when we examined the disclosure laws in other countries, it basically says the same. The problem is (inaudible), we have termed our laws, ‘Bank Secrecy Law’, when in fact these laws merely provide for procedures to a (inaudible).

QUESTION (Q): (inaudible) 

CHIZ: Yes, the exemption in so far as Congress is concerned would pertain to an impeachment case. That is in our current laws right now under the Bank Secrecy Law.

Q: (inaudible)

CHIZ: It would go to plenary and they subject it to interpellation for amendments. A few of my colleagues, about three or four, have reservations and we had to iron that out on the floor. There is a counterpart measure in the House but I believe there is more resistance in the House. Sa amin, so far as members of the House of Representatives is concerned, I don’t even think their close to coming out with a draft under repeal of the Bank Secrecy Law. It has been passed with both Houses before it becomes a law and before it is presented to the President for signature.

Q: (inaudible)

CHIZ: Well, they’re elected by districts approximately 260 of them and the rest they’re elected by party-list groups by sectors, we are 24 in the Senate elected at large.

Q: (inaudible)

CHIZ: I think it’s more on issue of understanding because if you look at it, again, it’s more title of the bill and increasing the possibilities for disclosure compared to the existing law. In so far as its effect, we had this law for the longest time, it was enacted decades ago principally to encourage people to deposit money in our banking system. Our banking system is (inaudible) compared to the time when the law was passed and adequate safeguards and adequate regulations are already there to maintain the confidence of depositors to keep their money in banks.

Q: (inaudible)

CHIZ: Well, it will enable the Philippines to become member of various international organizations that so far have not allowed us to be part of it because of the existence of our Bank Secrecy Law, particularly with respect to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Number two, well especially with banks in this experience, hopefully we will be able to erase and eradicate whatever impressions  that the Philippines is a haven of sorts in so far as dirty money is concerned. By the way, last July, the FATF through its action task force gave us relatively good remarks for the amendments we made to the Anti-Money Laundering Law including casinos, among others.

Q: (inaudible)

CHIZ: Actually I’ve been in Congress for nineteen years. Since about ten years I have been filing a bill to repeal the Secrecy of Bank Deposits  Law. Perhaps it’s a wake-up call anyway which brought some urgency into it but there have other bills authored not only by me but other members of the Senate and House as well seeking to repeal the Bank Secrecy Law. Again, given the fact that we’re one of the last two remaining countries with such law – with a law such as this.

Q: (inaudible)

CHIZ: I would be lucky to have it passed this Congress; given the fact that is the farthest it has reached. Also because it is only now that I became chairman of Banks, so I am reporting it out (laughs). So it will be facing rough waters for sure not only in the Senate but more so in the House. But nevertheless that has never stopped me from pursuing it nevertheless in so far as the legislation is concerned. And sometimes, all I have really to do is push hard enough and doors will open.

Q: (inaudible)

CHIZ: I don’t sound that optimistic, do I? But I foresee rough sailing, in so far as the bill is concerned. It will take a lot of convincing. But I am willing to do things that need to be done, in so far as the Senate committee is concerned. Once we passed it I hope, pressure will be made to bear upon the House, by the Lower House to actually follow suit.

Q: (inaudible)

CHIZ: Well, the basic issue actually is, is this being used for political purposes against political opponents of whoever is whomsoever maybe in power. That is why in our bill – hopefully we’ll be able to issue it next week – we put some safeguards in so far as using or being able to use this for political persecution and providing sufficient penalties for as well. Similar to what is found in the Anti-Money Laundering Law that we passed years ago.

Q: (inaudible)

CHIZ: In not so many words, I think that’s where they are coming from. But from where I am coming from, I follow a simple principle, if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. If you have nothing to fear then you have nothing to hide. I guess that doesn’t apply to each and every lawmaker or politician in the country.

Q: (inaudible)

CHIZ: Of course. As soon as we issue the committee report I’ll have it sent here. As soon as we obtain the necessary signatures to be able to report it out and I am confident that up to that level, I will make sure to have copies sent here.