Gov’t officials challenged to sign waiver on bank funds

By Matikas Santos, Tetch Torres

Senate minority floor leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday challenged all government officials to sign a waiver opening up their bank accounts.

Cayetano said that the waiver should be amended into the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) Law.

“I have appealed and I am appealing to [President Benigno Aquino III], ask your Cabinet members to start by signing a waiver opening up their bank accounts to the Ombudsman, for example,” Cayetano said.

Chief Justice Renato Corona, in his testimony Tuesday, signed a waiver allowing the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to probe his bank accounts and business interest. But he said he will only submit it if the 188 lawmakers who signed the impeachment complaint against him and Senator Franklin Drilon will sign a similar waiver.

Prosecutors and Drilon said Tuesday that they have no intention of signing a waiver because it was not related to the impeachment trial.
“I believe it’s a valid issue, but the timing was not right,” Cayetano said.

“Perhaps after [the impeachment court renders] a decision, all government officials should sign a waiver to show that it’s not true [the government] was only going after the enemies of [President Benigno Aquino III],” Cayetano added.

‘Tuwid na daan’

He said that the waiver for government officials to open all bank accounts was “the next logical step in the “tuwid na daan” (straight path) campaign of President Aquino, since there was already the Anti-Red Tape Law, the Freedom of Information bill, and the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice.

Cayetano agreed that the waiver would “muddle the issue” if it was done during the impeachment trial “but right after this impeachment case, if [government officials] are not hiding anything, what is wrong with signing a waiver?”

Cayetano said that when he challenged former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo to open up his bank accounts, he did it first and without condition, unlike Corona who would only sign his waiver with the condition that the 189 others would do it first.

Part of his proposed amendment to the SALN law was to include bank account records in the waiver of the SALN.

“The banking system will not be ruined if a small elite group, let’s say from the Office of the Ombudsman or it can be a composite group in [the Anti-Money Laundering Council], that will also look into these bank accounts,” Cayetano said.

Waiver challenge snow balls
Meanwhile, a Catholic school official and some bishops also supported the challenge to government officials to open up their bank account records.

Fr. Ranhilio C. Aquino, chair of Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) and Dean, Graduate School of law, San Beda College , said those who accused Corona of not disclosing bank records must also show that they are not guilty of committing the same offense, otherwise it is hypocritical, said.

“There is a condition, those who accused him (the Chief Justice) of not disclosing his bank records should come to court with clean hands,” Aquino said.

“That’s a principle of equity. He who comes into equity must come with clean hands. They have to make sure that they are not guilty of non-disclosure, otherwise it is hypocritical,” he added.

During Wednesday’s impeachment trial, lead prosecutor Niel Tupas said they will not sign the waiver. The prosecutors added that they have nothing to hide and their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth will be available after the impeachment trial.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said government officials should take Corona’s challenge and sign a waiver .

“Those accusing him should also set the example by disclosing their dollar accounts,” Pabillo told church-run Radio Veritas Wednesday. “That’s why the challenge of the Chief Justice is good for other lawmakers to show their assets.”

“There is really something wrong when they want a person to disclose his dollar accounts but his accusers refuse to do the same or don’t want to be transparent,” he said.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said government officials accepting Corona’s challenge would erase doubt on every public servant’s credibility.

“The nation will benefit a lot if they will sign a waiver,” Arguelles told the CBCP news.

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said Corona’s dare “is but a statement that those accusing him of dishonesty in making his SALN are dishonest themselves.”

“That’s why the basis of this is let us know who have no sin and throw the first stone. That’s the message,” Cruz said.

3 Lawmakers bite Corona ‘waiver’ challenge

Despite being brushed off as a publicity stunt by Senator Franklin Drilon and members of the House prosecution, three of the 188 lawmakers who signed the impeachment complaint are willing to take on Chief Justice Renato Corona’s dare to sign a waiver on their bank deposits.

Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco, ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, and Kalinga party-list Representative Abigail Faye Ferriol said that they were willing to take on Corona’s challenge, stressing that they have nothing to hide.

Even members of the minority bloc stepped up to the chief magistrate’s condition for signing his waiver.

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, however, said they were willing to open their bank accounts if the 188 lawmakers and Drilon would do so.

Drilon and the members of the House prosecution team have already told the impeachment court that they had no plans of signing their waivers.