Chiz leads probe of Comelec chiefENATOR Francis “Chiz” Escudero will lead the probe next week of embattled Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista for possible violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) in connection with the alleged unexplained wealth.
Escudero, chairman of the committee on banks, said the inquiry was based on the resolution filed by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson asking his committee to investigate the “possible violation” of the law by the Luzon Development Bank (LDB).
Escudero said the inquiry will be subject to bank secrecy laws, “unless Chairman Bautista waives it or is so ordered by the courts.”
Asked if Bautista would be invited to the hearing, Escudero said it will “simply be open to Chairman Bautista’s participation should he voluntarily want to, given his public pronouncements that he welcomes any probe to air his side and clear his name.”
But initially, Escudero said, he will just invite representatives from LDB, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), and Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
Bautista’s wife Patricia accused him of amassing P1 billion, including a balance of P329 million in accounts with LDB. The chairman vehemently denied the allegations.
Senate Resolution No. 468 noted that Bautista, as defined in the AMLA is considered a “politically exposed person (PEP)” holding a prominent public position.
Sotto and Lacson said the splitting of accounts of Bautista in one small thrift bank so as not to be under the radar of the AMLC “should be further looked into.”
They added that in the case of LDB and Bautista’s bank accounts, “the compliance with the required due diligence must be studied and investigated.”
The senators also cited BSP circular no. 950 on anti-money laundering regulations which states that “covered institutions” like LDB “shall specify criteria and description of the types of customers that are likely to pose low, normal or high money laundering/terrorist financing risk to their operations as well as the standards in applying reduced, average and enhanced due diligence.”