A bank secrecy waiver is a formal written permission by the depositor and contains details to the account or accounts in question and opens such information that is otherwise protected under Republic Act No. 1405 or the Law on Secrecy of Bank Deposits.
That is why the supposed bank secrecy waiver signed by presidential hopeful Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of Davao City, and his running mate Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, during a campaign sortie in Los Baños, Laguna is far from the real deal.
The Los Baños waiver is more a document of intent than a formal waiver on bank secrecy, said Alexander Escucha, senior vice president of China Banking Corp., noting that a bank cannot actually do anything with it.
Duterte and Cayetano signed the supposed waiver last month.
"It’s a good statement of intention. No, it is not actionable by any bank. It has to be specific to the bank and specific to the account number. Siyempre, the bank cannot acknowledge it," the bank official said.
Escucha noted that a legitimate bank secrecy waiver must detail the account holder, the account number, and the particular bank account.
“Dapat kasama sa authorization ‘yung account number. The bank still cannot respond (without it),” he said.
Escucha also said that if a joint bank account will be put under a bank secrecy waiver, both account holders must sign.
“Kung dalawa kayo (na account holder), dapat pumirma ‘yan. Kung hindi, mava-violate ‘yung privacy nung isa,” he said.
This comes after vice presidential candidate Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday challenged Duterte to sign a bank secrecy waiver to reveal a supposedly unreported bank accounts with P211 million in cash that he did not indicate in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).
Duterte also on Thursday admitted that he owned bank accounts at the said BPI branch, but claimed that the deposits were only in the thousands and not in the millions. He said he won't sign a waiver for the accounts.
Escucha noted the challenge Trillanes hurled against Duterte was based on the general nature of the Los Baños waiver.
"I think the point of Senator Trillanes, merong waiver na pinirmahan ni Duterte... Parang general waiver. Dapat naka-address sa specific bank din," Escucha said.
Under the law, all deposits of whatever nature with banks or banking institutions in the Philippines – including investments in bonds issued by the government, its political subdivisions – are considered absolutely confidential and may not be examined.
Because a waiver is a formal document, it contains details specific to the bank account being opened to scrutiny.
“I think the bank can release details about the account only on two grounds: a court order, and the second is a written consent of the account holder or a bank secrecy waiver,” Escucha noted.
He emphasized that the waiver must be specific, detailing the account number, the account holder's name, and the particular bank.
“It has to be specific to the account. You have to define exactly what account you’re referring to. Dapat naka-address sa specific bank din,” he said.
'Protected by law'
According to Section 2 of RA 1405, bank deposits may only be opened upon written permission (bank secrecy waiver) of the depositor, or in cases of impeachment, or when ordered by a 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 litigation.
With a waiver on the bank secrecy law, a "bank depositor can waive his right to privacy with respect to his bank deposit so the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) or other regulators or law enforcement agencies can look into it," said a ranking official of the BSP, who asked not to be named.
Violators of RA 1405 may be imprisoned for up to five years, or fined as much as P20,000, or both upon discretion of the court.
“We’re protected by law 'di ba? That the info can’t be shared, but if the owner of the account issues a waiver then that info can be shared,” Pia Bernadette Roman Tayag, head of the Inclusive Finance Advocacy Staff of the BSP, told GMA News Online on the sidelines of the Financial Inclusion Summit 2016 on Thursday.
Once the waiver is presented to the bank, Escucha noted the applicable laws would be lifted and the details of the account would soon be released.
“It goes through our lawyers also, pero that should not take long. It depends on what exactly they want. Pwedeng last balance lang – mabilis lang ‘yun. Kung account history, and medyo matagal na ‘yung accounts then kailangan pa hanapin ‘yun kasi baka nasa archives na,” Escucha noted.
Duterte on Thursday admitted he owned a bank account at the BPI Julia Vargas branch, saying the deposits were only in the thousands and not in the millions. – VDS/JST, GMA News