Cua files bill seeking to lift bank secrecy

A LAWMAKER is pushing amendments to the Bank Secrecy Law to lift certain provisions to prevent criminal activities by giving the regulator authority to look into bank accounts.

In a House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries hearing on Thursday, the committee chair Junie E. Cua said he wants to be “extra careful” in amending the 65-year-old law while emphasizing the need to revise provisions in the law as it “is used as a shield” for money laundering and other anomalous activities.

The Bank Secrecy Law currently prohibits the disclosure or inquiry into deposits as these are confidential in nature.

Mr. Cua authored House Bill 8634 amending the law to give the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) the authority to access accounts for investigative purposes. He said the proposed amendments will give parameters that will need to be satisfied before the BSP can check bank accounts.

“The basic objective is to empower the BSP or to authorize BSP to look into accounts of bank owners or bank stockholders, bank officials, or dummies in order to be able to investigate wrongdoings of that confined set of account holders, namely stockholders of the banks, officials of the banks who the BSP sees and believes that by some machinations, are doing activities that are fraudulent,” he added.

Mr. Cua said the proposal was crafted after the World Bank and International Monetary Fund recommended the relaxing of the strict Bank Secrecy Law.

BSP Senior Assistant Governor and General Counsel Elmore O. Capule said in the same hearing that the “very narrow lifting” of the Bank Secrecy Law will allow the central bank to effectively handle crimes committed by bank personnel. He said during the past three years, over P6 billion involved incidents within bank personnel.

“We’ve had 1,419 incidents relating to deposits. These are crimes and losses and had around 2,200 personnel of banks involved and it amounts to P6.3 billion from 2017 to 2020. We are…alarmed that there are a lot of insider abuses being done in the banks and we do not have the proper legal weapon to ensure that these kinds of abuses are…utilizing bank deposit secrecy as shield,” he said. — G.M. Cortez

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