Escudero dares fellow candidates to sign waivers on bank deposits secrecy

April 5, 2013 10:20 pm 

MANILA, April 5 – Team PNoy reelectionist Senator Francis Escudero on Friday challenged government officials and those aspiring for public office including senatorial candidates to bare their financial records through the signing of waivers on the secrecy of bank deposits to accompany the submission of statements of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN).

“In the interest of transparency, candidates in the coming elections without exception should make public their financial records going by the dictum that working in government is a privilege and not a right,” Escudero said.

Reports of some public officials and senatorial bets maintaining offshore assets in foreign tax havens were disclosed this week.

“While owning assets in offshore tax havens is not against the law, what is illegal is if these assets are not declared under the yearly SALN of public officials,” Escudero said.

Escudero said his challenge for a bank secrecy waiver covers his peers in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

He also called on members of Congress to take the lead in the transparency move by enacting a law requiring government officials to sign waivers on the secrecy of bank accounts to open these to government audit.

Escudero had filed Senate bill 107 or the Submission of Waiver of Bank Deposits bill, way back in 2010 that seeks the mandatory signing of bank waivers. The controversy involving the illegal use of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) funds prompted the filing of the bill.

“I will refile the bill in my next Senate term. A similar waiver was required of Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial and it only follows that all those in government service should be subjected to the same rules and standard,” Escudero said.

He said that signed waivers on bank deposits should accompany the filing of the SALN of public officials.

“We have been strengthening the anti-money laundering law and the enactment of the bill on the bank deposit waivers would strengthen the law against dirty money,” Escudero said.

“The bill on the waiver of secrecy of bank deposits is the missing link to prevent public officials from using the banking system to hide plundered funds,” he added.

Escudero said he signed a bank secrecy waiver which was submitted to the Senate President a day before the historic verdict to convict Corona was handed down on March 28, 2012.

The waiver authorizes the Office of the Ombudsman to open bank accounts for scrutiny of government agencies including the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

Escudero’s bill proposes that all public officials and employees, except those who serve in honorary capacity, shall submit to the Office of the Ombudsman a written waiver.

Failure or refusal to submit such document is ground for being barred from entering or continuing government service.

“This waiver and any information obtained from it shall be used exclusively only for investigating a duly signed and verified complaint before the Sandiganbayan. We don't want any witch-hunts,” Escudero said.

“Most of the time, bank secrecy poses a big hindrance in the pursuit of an anti-graft case,” he added. (PNA)

DSP/JFM

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