Supreme Court stops poll money ban

Bankers’ group sought relief from high court

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The Supreme Court has issued a status quo ante order against the “money ban” resolution of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that would have prevented the withdrawal and the carrying of large amounts of cash before and during the elections on Monday.

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno issued the order suspending the implementation of Comelec Resolution No. 9688 upon the recommendation of Justice Arturo Brion, who wrote the majority opinion on the petition against the Comelec resolution by the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP).

The Comelec was given 10 days from receipt of the order to comment on the BAP petition.

The status quo ante order, though having an immediate effect, would still need confirmation by the other justices when the high court resumes regular sessions on June 4.

But when the tribunal en banc is on recess, the Chief Justice has the power to issue certain orders on its behalf, subject to the eventual approval of the entire court.

Resolution No. 9688 sought to prohibit cash withdrawals exceeding P100,000 per day and the carrying of P500,000 in cash beginning May 8, Wednesday, until May 13, Monday.

The poll body later amended the resolution, leaving it to the discretion of bank tellers and officials whether to allow cash withdrawals of at least P100,000.

President Benigno Aquino III, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas all expressed doubts or opposition to the resolution.

Mr. Aquino called it a “shotgun approach” that would kill good business. He said that was the reason why he had not given his concurrence to the money ban.

The BAP, in its petition to the high court, accused the Comelec of acting beyond its jurisdiction when it issued Resolution No. 9688.

“The powers conferred on [the] Comelec under the Constitution… do not include the power to impose limitations on the withdrawal of cash, encashment of checks, conversion of monetary instruments into cash, and the possession or transport of cash,” it said.

The BAP also said the ban violated the constitutional right to due process, right to be presumed innocent and the non-impairment clause.

It also said the resolution invalidly amended Republic Act No. 9160, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act, and violated bank secrecy laws.

Focus on polls

Following the latest rebuff of the Comelec from the high court, Malacañang quickly called on the Comelec to focus on preparations for Monday’s polls.

“Hopefully, the action of the Supreme Court will allow those concerned with the elections to focus on delivering honest, credible, and peaceful elections on Monday,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

Valte stressed that the high court order was not an offshoot of the meeting between Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Thursday.

“I understand that the conversation took place before the Supreme Court decision came out,” she said.

Asked whether this latest rebuke from the high court would be enough reason for Brillantes to quit, Valte said that would be up to Brillantes.

The Supreme Court has in recent months stopped or reversed at least three controversial Comelec resolutions—those on the extended liquor ban, airtime limits for political campaign advertisements and the qualifications of party-list groups. With a report from Michael Lim Ubac

First posted 12:31 am | Saturday, May 11th, 2013

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