Jon Stewart is a very popular US TV personality with a strong political clout among US citizens and who delivers—in the guise of entertaining but completely authentic news videos —seriously unsettling messages about what is happening in the political and financial universe of the world’s most powerful and influential nation.
In a video released last Jan. 9, (which can be viewed at the website http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-january-9-2013/ bank-wankers—hsbc) he revealed the alleged ethics, or supposed absence of it, of Europe’s second largest bank, HSBC. He posed the same question asked by TV news commentators in America—why are bankers, who are accused of transacting billions of US dollars in alleged money laundering deals, who supposedly admit to handling drug cartels’ and terrorist groups’ money laundering, and who reportedly counsel other countries labeled as terrorist nations how to evade US financial security systems, merely paying a relatively minuscule fine compared to the bank’s global size, and evading jail sentences? Which will bring one to ask—what’s happening in the world’s most powerful government that it cannot even punish with jail sentences bank executives who break national security laws? If a country as big as the United States has to abjectly yield to bank executives’ serious violations of US laws, could it happen here in the Philippines ?
Some say in the light of what just happened in the United States, local developments that Philippine business news columnists are reporting on could be more ominous than what appears on the surface for our economically small nation. They report that large foreign financial institutions, such as HSBC (breaking its own tradition for the first time by recently appointing a Filipino instead of a foreigner to head Philippine operations, and fresh and looking good from its 2011 Most Impressive Deal Award for its handling of the $1.5-billion Sovereign Bond of the Republic of the Philippines), are looking into gearing up to expand in the Philippines. Some wonder—and they are not necessarily referring to HSBC in particular whose local crew certainly does not act like their foreign counterparts in the United States supposedly do—if expansion by a large foreign bank could also critically augur ill for our nation’s struggle against money laundering, despite our government’s ongoing efforts to strengthen our Anti-Money Laundering Law through legislation presently being debated in the Philippine Congress and Senate.
If foreign banks with an allegedly less than impeccable banking background abroad somehow get involved in the Philippines in the same activities they are accused of and penalized for in much larger countries—will not their huge underhanded transactions clearly inflict a grievous setback to our country’s ongoing efforts to bring into the peaceful mainstream of economic and political participation certain local ideological groups who sometimes engage in money laundering activities to shore up their nondiplomatic operations?
—BENJAMIN B. AGUNOD,