Senate to probe Comelec chief’s alleged unexplained wealth next week
The Senate is set to conduct next week an inquiry on the possible violations of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) in connection with the alleged unexplained wealth of beleaguered Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres “Andy” Bautista.
This after Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson filed on Thursday a resolution asking Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero’s committee to investigate the “possible violation” of the law by the Luzon Development Bank (LDB).
Escudero, chairman of the committee on banks, said in a text message that the inquiry will be subject to bank secrecy laws, “unless Chairman Bautista waives it or is so ordered by the courts.”
Asked if Bautista would be invited to the hearing, Escudero said it will “simply be open to Chairman Bautista’s participation should he voluntarily want to, given his public pronouncements that he welcomes any probe to air his side and clear his name.”
But initially, Escudero said he will just invite representatives from LDB, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
Bautista’s wife Patricia accused him of having P1 billion in unexplained wealth, including a balance of P329 million in accounts with LDB. The commissioner vehemently denied the allegations.
Under the Senate Resolution No. 468, it noted that Bautista, as defined in the AMLA is considered a “politically exposed person (PEP)” holding a prominent public position.
The AMLA also covers family members and close relationships and associates of the PEP reputedly known to have joint beneficial ownership of a legal entity or legal arrangement with the principal PEP, or sole beneficial ownership of a legal entity or legal arrangement known to exist for the benefit of the PEP.
Sotto and Lacson said the splitting of accounts of Bautista in one small thrift bank so as not to be under the radar of the AMLC “should be further looked into.”
They added that in the case of LDB and Bautista’s bank accounts, “the compliance with the required due diligence must be studied and investigated.”
The senators also cited BSP circular no. 950 on anti-money laundering regulations which states that “covered institutions” like LDB “shall specify criteria and description of the types of customers that are likely to pose low, normal or high money laundering/terrorist financing risk to their operations as well as the standards in applying reduced, average and enhanced due diligence.”
“The same BSP circular implies that the enhanced due diligence shall be applied by the covered institutions to those individual customers who are considered as PEP,” they wrote. IDL
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