Panama Papers shows need for bank waivers
With the leak of the “Panama Papers” that revealed the hidden off-shore wealth of high-profile personalities, there is all the more reason to require all government personnel—from the President on down to the lowest clerk—to sign waivers allowing the Ombudsman to look into their bank deposits, Sen. Francis Escudero has suggested.
Filipinos on the list revealed much earlier included Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and her three sons and Sen. JV Ejercito. Marcos is the daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, while Ejercito is a son of ousted President Joseph Estrada who was convicted of plunder.
Requirement for officials
Escudero, who is running for vice president, said there should be a law requiring a waiver on state workers’ accounts.
“We’ve been repeatedly told that a public office is a public trust. Every single peso of the people’s taxes should be handled with care, sincerity and honesty. Every peso paid by a taxpayer should be used to advance the public good, not one’s private good,” he said in a statement.
He said Filipinos named in the papers must explain and be held to account if there was wrongdoing.
“If a Filipino politician is named in the Panama Papers, he or she should be held accountable if he or she committed any wrongdoing. Filipinos named in the Panama Papers must explain why they opted to hide behind the veneer of questionable offshore companies,” he said.
Marcos and Ejercito were on the list leaked in 2013, when investigative journalists first got hold of it and began their two-year investigation that was released last week.
Escudero said he has been submitting waivers for his bank deposits, attaching them to his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth filed with the Office of the Ombudsman.
In 2013, he filed a bill that would compel government workers to sign a waiver allowing the Ombudsman to look into their deposits inside and outside the country.
For his part, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said Thursday the government should investigate those Filipinos with offshore accounts as listed in the Panama Papers, saying that those with such accounts usually were “hiding something.”
Speaking at the Kapihan sa Senado media forum, Enrile said the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Anti-Money Laundering Council should “check” on those Filipinos.
Need for offshore accounts
“If you have an offshore account, why and what for? That is the question,” Enrile said, pointing out that among those who had offshore accounts were the late American gangster Al Capone, the Mafia and drug lords from Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Paraguay.
World leaders, their relatives and friends, sports stars and big businessmen were also among those found to have offshore accounts in Panama, according to the hacked documents.
Asked why people would stash their money abroad, Enrile said it was to evade taxes “most of the time.”
“Most of the time, it’s to hide something,” he added.
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