Plain & clear: Law lets impeach court to see all deposits

Plain & clear:
Law lets impeach court
to see all deposits

Impeachment Court Presiding Juror, Juan Ponce Enrile, who ordered Senate Majority Floor Leader Tito Sotto to read the ruling approving the application of the prosecution for subpoenas duces tecum and ad testificandum to compel proper officials of BPI and PS Bank.


By BERTENI “TOTO” CATALUÑA CAUSING
Editor-in-chief, Dyaryo Magdalo


            It is a myth to argue that a foreign-currency deposit is exempt absolutely from any compulsion for it to be opened.

It is equally a myth to repeatedly pronounce that the only way to allow examination of a deposit in foreign currency is consent of the owner.

It is doubly a myth for them to argue that even the Impeachment Court—the highest court of the country—cannot order the examination of any deposit in foreign currency.

             The prosecutors in the ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona argued well to convince the senators to approve their application for subpoena to deliver to the court all the bank documents of the impeached accused.

But the prosecutors failed to hit the nail right on its head.  What they used to support their application for subpoenas against officials of Bank of Philippine Islands and PS Bank are mere rulings of the Supreme Court itself where foreign-currency deposits were either examined or garnished.

             The best argument is pretty simple.

First, Republic Act 1405 has not been repealed by any law, at least as to the secrecy of deposit provision.

Second, RA 1405 provides exception to the secrecy wall, and that one of those exempt from that secrecy bar is a case of impeachment.   

Third, RA 1405 made no distinction as to foreign or local currency deposits.  Hence, this applies as well to foreign deposits in local banks.

In RA 6426, its Section 8 says about deposit secrecy provisions but there is nothing there that states to repeal or revoke RA 1405.

As such, when it comes to the law on exemptions to the secrecy foreign deposits, the law on the matter is still RA 1405.

Since RA 1405 states that one of those exempt from the secrecy wall is a case of impeachment, it follows that the law is plain and clear: Impeachment Court can open a local bank deposit in foreign currency.

For clarity, Section 2 of RA 1405 where the secrecy rule is stated is hereby reproduced, to wit:

“Section 2. All deposits of whatever nature with banks or banking institutions in the Philippines including investments in bonds issued by the Government of the Philippines, its political subdivisions and its instrumentalities, are hereby considered as of an absolutely confidential nature and may not be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office, except upon 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.”

Then, read Section 8 of RA 6426, to wit:

"Section 8. Secrecy of foreign currency deposits. – All foreign currency deposits authorized under this Act, as amended by PD No. 1035, as well as foreign currency deposits authorized under PD No. 1034, are hereby declared as and considered of an absolutely confidential nature and, except upon the written permission of the depositor, in no instance shall foreign currency deposits be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office whether judicial or administrative or legislative, or any other entity whether public or private; Provided, however, That said foreign currency deposits shall be exempt from attachment, garnishment, or any other order or process of any court, legislative body, government agency or any administrative body whatsoever. (As amended by PD No. 1035, and further amended by PD No. 1246, prom. Nov. 21, 1977.)"

Reading Section 8 over and over again shows nothing that repeals or revokes Section 2 of RA 1405.

Ergo, the law may be harsh but the law is clear.

Impeachment Court can open any local bank deposits in foreign currency if it is owned by the respondent and the assets in those deposits are an issue in the impeachment proceeding.
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