It’s the second day of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales’s “testimony” in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Bottom line still is the fact that no beginning cash balance to serve as a baseline to give meaning to the cash flows presented by Morales could be produced. Without a beginning balance, there is no basis at all for proving or disproving claims made by both Morales and various “civil society” personalities including former Akbayan party list representative Risa Hontiveros and some other guy that Corona maintained dollar account balances of anywhere from USD10 million to USD12 million (even the claims vary depending on which of these characters you ask). No ending balance could be calculated and no average balance over the 2003 through 2011 period covered by the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) “report” could be ascertained.
A point more important to the Senators emerged, however. And it is that the sums moved to and from up to 82 accounts across several banks over that period were enormous sums — which raised the question of why the AMLC had not acted on the information it did possess. Then again did the AMLC come to possess the information that went into Morales’s report as a result of its routine monitoring? Or did the AMLC acquire it on the prompting of Morales’s office?
These questions are what set off a subsequent series of nervous grilling of Morales by the Senator Judges as the spectre of the AMLC as MalacaÃ±ang’s on-call Gestapo — the new Philippine Constabulary, perhaps — descended upon the Senate floor. Is the AMLC investigation of the alleged Corona dollar accounts a once-off thing conducted at MalacaÃ±ang’s behest? Can it be called upon to do the same thing in the future should any of the Senators, shall we say, displease MalacaÃ±ang in the future?
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As Senator Miriam Santiago pointed out during her manifestation — perhaps the manner with which the investigation was initiated by the Ombudsman and the information acquired and made available for public consumption was unlawful. The implications of this are serious. It starts with small things — small instances of circumvention of the Bill of Rights; means to justify a well-pitched end — that precipitate bigger and bigger violations of civil rights: unwarranted searches and arrests, illegal wiretapping, domestic spying… Where will it end?
It looks like the rest of the term of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will be nothing more than a big purge — today the Supreme Court, tomorrow the Senate perhaps. Senators beware! Start running for the banks!
“Civil society” stalwart and staunch anti-Corona crusader Leah Navarro let loose what sounded like whopper of a Freudian slip in a tweet she issued tonight:
If a public official or citizen has nothing to hide, the possibility of an audit or probe should not be a concern.
An ironic assertion coming from a supposed advocate of “justice”, “truth”, and da Pinoy way it is. Implying an advocacy for unwarranted search on ordinary citizens was something few people found even remotely amusing. A response from Human Rights Watch researcher Carlos Conde sums up the issue surrounding Navarro’s ill-thought-out tweet:
@leahnavarro that is dangerously close to saying if a citizen didn’t commit a crime, she shouldn’t mind the police barging into her home.
J. Edgar Hoover comes to mind. John Edgar Hoover (January 1, 1895 â€“ May 2, 1972) was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigationâ€”predecessor to the FBIâ€”in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972 aged 77.
Late in life and after his death Hoover became a controversial figure as evidence of his secretive actions became public. His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. FBI directors are now limited to one 10-year term, subject to extension by the United States Senate, because of his long and controversial tenure.
[Photo courtesy The Guardian.]
The AMLC, like Hoover’s FBI is supposed to be an independent investigation and regulatory body. What seems to have emerged in today’s trial session is the possibility that the AMLC, like the impeachment trial itself, has become no more than an ineffectually toothless “political exercise”. In fact, the mandate of the AMLC is quite clear and the manner with which the Ombudsman wielded its powers obviously inconsistent with this mandate…
Under Sec. 11 of the AMLA, as amended, â€œthe AMLC may inquire into or examine any particular deposit or investment with any banking institution or non-bank financial institution upon order of any competent court in cases of violation of said law, when it has been established that there is probable cause that the deposits or investments are related to an unlawful activity as defined in Section 3(i) thereof or a money laundering offense under Section 4 thereof.â€ Without an enabling court order, therefore, the AMLC cannot conduct such inquiry or examination except where the predicate crime involved is kidnapping for ransom, a narcotics offense and hijacking, destructive arson or murder, including those perpetrated by terrorists against non-combatant persons and similar targets.
If and when the AMLC applies with a competent court for an inquiry order, the court must first give prior notice to the account owner about the planned inquiry or examination, pursuant to the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Republic of the Philippines v. Hon. Antonio M. Eugenio, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 174629, February 14, 2008.
No court order and no consent from the account owner. Law violated. Simple.
It starts with small things.
Senators beware. There may already be secret files on your bank accounts and about your personal circumstances somewhere, ready to be “leaked” in a brown envelope to ABS-CBN or the Inquirer.net.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted off the Wikipedia.org article “J Edgar Hoover” and used in accordance with that site’s Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License consistent with the same license applied by Get Real Post to its content.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.