SC seeks comments on clipping AMLC powers
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, March 24, ordered the Court of Appeals (CA) and government financial institutions to comment on a petition challenging the constitutionality of unilateral bank investigations by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
The SC directed the heads of the CA, the AMLC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Insurance Commission to file their comments before the Court within 10 days after they are notified of the order.
They were all named respondents in the petition which questioned Section 11 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), which sanctions an ex-parte or unilateral bank inquiry application by the AMLC.
When the application is granted by the CA, a unilateral bank inquiry allows the financial intelligence council to look into the movement of money and account history of the bank accounts and other financial instruments suspected to be repositories of dirty money without notifying the parties under probe.
The unilateral examination leaves the aggrieved parties "deprived of the right and opportunity to question the propriety of the government's intrusion into his private affairs," argued the petitioners.
The plea was filed by the Subido Pagente Certeza Mendoza and Binay (SPCMB) Law Offices last March 11 in relation to the reported CA approval of such an inquiry into its bank accounts.
The CA order which SPCMB also asked to be stopped reportedly covers select accounts of Vice President Jejomar Binay, his wife Elenita, his daughter Abigail, his alleged bagman Gerry Limlingan, his son and embattled Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr, and the SPCMB law firm itself.
Congresswoman Mar-len Abigail Binay, the vice president's daughter, is a partner in the law firm.
With the court order, banks can waive their confidentiality agreement with their clients without having to notify them.
This unilateral bank inquiry power enshrined in Section 11 of AMLA was not included when it was originally passed, but was added in the approved amendments in 2013. Congresswoman Binay was part of Congress when the amendment – now being questioned before the SC – was enacted.
President Benigno Aquino III sees these amendments as key to the country's improved efforts to curb money laundering, which deprives the economy of funds that could have been used to combat poverty and boost growth. (READ: PH anti-money laundering ranking outdated – Palace)
Vice President Binay and his son Junjun are facing separate criminal complaints at the fact-finding and preliminary probe stage respectively, before the Ombudsman.
His wife Elenita faces graft cases before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan. (READ: Binay law firm to SC: Stop AMLC probe into accounts)
Plunder, graft and corrupt practices are predicate crimes of money laundering, which allows the AMLC as the government's financial intelligence unit to probe financial instruments related to the commission of these crimes.
The SPCMB, however, argued it is not included in any of the criminal complaints and cases against the Binays.
It alleged that, by including its accounts in the unilateral bank examination, the AMLC was conducting a "fishing expedition" not contemplated under the AMLA.
It added that the determination of probable cause, the standard needed for the assailed court order, requires the courts to hear all parties concerned.
Parties being probed should be notified and given a chance to be heard to properly adjudicate the existence of probable cause, the law firm argued. – Rappler.com