Safe haven since 1974
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
RA 6426, known as “An Act Instituting a Foreign Currency Deposit System in the Philippines”, was enacted into law in 1974. The law declares that all foreign currency deposits are considered of absolutely confidential nature, except upon the written permission of the depositor. The law also states that in no instance shall foreign currency deposits be examined, inquired or looked into by any person or government office whether judicial, administrative or legislative, or any other entity.
After the defense of Chief Justice Renato Corona successfully called upon the letter of the law to prevent his US dollar accounts from being examined by the impeachment court, as the prosecution tried to paint a clearer picture of the extent of Corona’s under declaration of his assets in his Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net worth, it has become pretty clear to anybody wanting to hide money in this country, that the unconditional secrecy of a foreign currency deposit makes it the best way to stash wealth, especially if the manner by which it has been acquired is questionable.
As a result of this development, there have been proposals, both in the Senate and Congress, to amend that law. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Camarines Sur Rep. Salvio Fortuno have both filed proposals that would either allow certain foreign currency deposits to be scrutinized when the public officials that own them are either impeached or charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act as an exception to the confidentiality clause of the law.
While bank secrecy may be important to the health of the banking industry, it cannot be absolute, especially for people who hold an office that demands unquestionable integrity and requires public trust. Amending the law to prevent corrupt public officials as well as suspected criminals from hiding the gains of their illicit activities in foreign currency accounts certain sounds reasonable for as long as those exceptions are clear cut and the proper safeguards are installed to ensure the rest of the public, that as long as they are not involved in corruption or criminal activities, their bank information will still be safe and secure.
Corrupt public officials and criminals are supposed to be afraid of the law. Now that the chief justice himself has shown them how they can use the law to hide their money from the government, we hope that the legislature, assisted by the judiciary and the executive departments, finds a way to safely dismantle that safe haven for illegally acquired funds.*