Once upon a time, then senator Benigno â€œNoynoyâ€ Aquino III made a bold declaration in a press release during his presidential campaign.
“I am willing if necessary (to waive my rights under the Bank Secrecy Law)…but I will not presume for others who will join government,” he said in the Second Integrity and Human Rights Conference at Hotel Intercontinental Manila.
Under Republic Act 1405, disclosure or inquiry into deposits with any banking institutions is prohibited. Section 2 of the law considers as “absolutely confidential” all deposits with banks or banking institutions in the Philippines.
Some exceptions are a written permission of the depositor or in cases of impeachment, or upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials, or in cases where the money deposited or invested is the subject matter of the litigation.
Violations carry a penalty of up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to P20, 000 or both.
In his time as president, Noynoy, now using the sobriquet â€œPNoy,â€ began his â€œclean-upâ€ campaign to rid the government of supposedly elusive crooks from the past administration. The one that took the blow of the presidentâ€™s conquest was none other than Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In the duration of his trial at the Senate, coupled with the persecution of the congressmen and vindictive Filipinos, Corona in the end came up with a controversial dare; the bank secrecy waiver. Alongside authorizing government agencies to directly look into his bank accounts, Corona also posed a challenge to the other politicians of the land to do the same, for the sake of transparency which everyone seems to want anyway. Why, this is the perfect time for the president to show his stuff; now is the perfect for him to fulfill his pledge to the Filipino people hungry for change. Butâ€”
MalacaÃ±ang dismissed suggestions that President Benigno Aquino III fullfil a campaign promise to waive his bank secrecy rights â€œat this timeâ€ the way impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona did last week.
And so the straight path that had no definite end was no more; the said path was leading to hypocrisy.
Yes, PNoy rejected the golden opportunity to uphold his principles way back from his promise-filled and platform-less campaign to the Filipino people, specifically his declaration to waive his rights under the Bank Secrecy Law. Examining Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierdaâ€™s statement:
â€œIt is incumbent on all to recognize that it is Mr. Corona who is on trial,â€ Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said over the weekend when asked to comment on reminders posted on online forums that Mr. Aquino had pledged to waive his rights under the bank secrecy laws and open his bank accounts to the public during the presidential campaign of 2010.
This reasoning is quite ridiculous. Does the Constitution provide that an ongoing impeachment trial prohibits a public official from upholding his campaign promises? But then, of course, itâ€™s because Corona is the one making the dare. How can PNoy accept that the one whom his administration perceives to be Arroyoâ€™s corrupt lapdog will turn out to uphold the very principles PNoy promised the people in the past? This flies in the face of his persecution project against the respondent. Hence, the dissent, albeit coupled with faulty reasoning.
Lacierda said that asking Mr. Aquino to sign a waiver of his bank secrecy rights while the impeachment trial against Corona is going on was like lumping law-abiding public servants together with those who are being called to account for wrongdoing.
Who or what can verify that PNoy is a law-abiding citizen? The only thing that can be assessed is that PNoy is not the one on trial; that is all. And this does not answer the previous question: Does the Constitution provide that an ongoing impeachment trial prohibits a public official from upholding his campaign promises?
Undersecretary Abigail Valte, the deputy presidential spokesperson, said over state-run radio dzRB Sunday that waiving bank secrecy rights was a voluntary and personal decision.
Yes, Valte was right in saying that waiving rights is a voluntary and personal decision. However, there is this notion of expectation for public officials, especially when they have made a promise to the people during their campaign. People have invested their trust on what those officials have said. As a proponent of a supposedly straight path, shouldnâ€™t PNoy know that much?
Asked about the campaign promise, Lacierda said Mr. Aquinoâ€™s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) already includes the mandatory waiver for the Ombudsman to obtain documents from the appropriate government agencies to verify the extent of his wealth.
â€œTo those who are asking if the President will sign a waiver, for the record the Presidentâ€™s SALN has always been made public and it includes the mandatory waiver for the Ombudsman,â€ he said.
Yes, the president does subject himself to the power of the Ombudsman (together with the other public officials), but the mandatory waiver is not the same as PNoyâ€™s promise to waive his bank secrecy rights. Waiving your bank secrecy rights means you relinquish that right; that would mean anyone at any time can view the contents of your bank accounts whenever they feel like it. This is the consequence of PNoyâ€™s promise.
Meanwhile, the Ombudsman can only investigate bank accounts based on an existing credible complaint. Furthermore, the Ombudsman also subjects himself/herself to existing constraints in the policies of some government agencies she cooperates with (e.g., direct inquiry to AMLC reports require a court order from a competent court).
There is a big difference between the mandatory waiver and PNoyâ€™s right-waiving. In any case, PNoy has really outdone himself in giving us a thorough look at his increasingly hypocritical demeanor. Lovely.
The way I see it, there are at least two ways for him to somehow escape this dilemma, both of which will certainly damage his credibility. Either he can just accept Coronaâ€™s dare, which can show his fickleness, or he can publicly reject his previous claim about waiving his rights, which will fly in the face of what his supporters believed in.
Time to show some spine, PNoy.