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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Want to end government corruption? Repeal bank secrecy law

/ 04:05 AM February 14, 2022

Dindo Manhit in an article published last Feb. 12 said: “Everyone must fight corruption. It starts by electing leaders who won’t tolerate it at all.” Simply put, good leaders produce good results.

But given our chronicled and worsening corruption, the same conclusion may also suggest that we have always been wrong in electing leaders, through nearly two generations since the Edsa revolution. Maraming korap kaya maraming mahirap.

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In this month of hearts and flowers and lovers of every kind, it is fitting yet relevant to revisit a piece of examination by Anna Cristina Tuazon (“Love and elections,” Safe Space, 2/9/22): “When choosing a life partner, you’d want someone who can dream—and know how to actualize that dream. In politics, you’d want a candidate who carries ambitious ideals because this means they won’t be too cynical to attempt to change the current system that has preserved our inequalities. At the same time, you would want someone who actually has a credible plan. Wanting to change the system is simply not enough; they need to understand deeply how the system works, appreciate its complexity, and offer a systemic solution. Simple solutions like imposing bans and taxes are not likely to solve anything in the long term.”

We all want a corruption-free nation. Every candidate promises the same. Ambitious ideal? Yes. But have we been told by any candidate of a radical, credible plan to root out this evil of dishonesty and deceit? No. This should make us wary.

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How can anyone realistically commit to financing or aiding basic needs of the great many on food, shelter, education, health care, jobs if 40 percent of people’s money is lost annually to corruption? How can anyone attract the private sector, local and international, to invest and create jobs if we are to remain a corrupt nation? How can anyone put behind bar grafters in government, rent-seekers in business, and elements of criminal syndicates if our laws of today shield and favor them?

Is anyone, imbued not with self-interest or obligation to return a favor, prepared and equipped to repeal the nearly century-old, obsolete Republic Act No. 1405 or the bank secrecy law? The law was enacted in 1955 to encourage individuals to deposit their money in banks instead of hoarding them. It declared banking a private matter. Put simply, no one can go to your bank and ask for your bank balance. While there are exceptions, securing them is not an easy task. The easiest way is to waive the secrecy in writing, but it’s not that simple. As a matter of practice, banks will require the depositor to state in his waiver the specific bank account, bank branch, name of depositor, period covered by the transactions, and the name of the person authorized to access the bank account. The only other option is to secure a court order. Imagine, then, the difficulty in going after persons suspected or accused of corruption without any money trail.

The Philippines is among only three countries in the world (Lebanon and North Korea are the other two) that have ultra-strict bank secrecy laws.

There are stories affixed to banking transactions. They are not just empty figures. So, unless our next president and Congress realize and act on the need to repeal this age-old law, no end to corruption will ever be in sight.

This is the golden time to challenge candidates and to get commitment, not after elections. Else, we can all just end up fighting the same endless corruption.

NORMAN CABRERA
President
Kapatiran Party [email protected]

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TAGS: bank secrecy law, Dindo Manhit, government corruption, Letters to the Editor, Norman Cabrera
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