VICE President Jejomar Binay accused the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) of misleading the Court of Appeals said Thursday the agency misled the Court of Appeals by falsely claiming he had no other source of income other than his government salary.
“I do not have 242 accounts. Only five accounts included in the freeze order are under my name. And all the funds in these five accounts were acquired legally. They are not hidden wealth. AMLAC is really wrong,” Binay said.
Binay also belied the AMLAC’s report that his only source of income was his government salary, saying his accounts also included income and savings before he joined the government. “The AMLC claims that my government salary is my only source of funds and it does not match the amounts in my bank accounts. This is not true,” the Vice President said.
“My accounts include income and savings before I joined the government. We also have businesses that are already decades old. We pay taxes. Even legal campaign contributions, which have been reported to the Comelec, were described as ill-gotten by AMLC. AMLC is again wrong,” he added.
“AMLC even included the bank accounts that have already been closed. AMLC is definitely wrong,” he added.
Binay also lamented the release of the supposedly confidential report, saying that it was one-sided and did not yet include his answers to the findings.
“With the leak of the AMLAC report, it is clear that my detractors are willing to violate the law in their bid to destroy me,” he said.
The Vice President expressed dismay that even AMLC has fallen victim to “fiction writers and manghuhulas (fortune tellers).”
“You have fiction writers and manghuhulas not only in the Senate. You can find them in the Anti-Money Laundering Council,” he said.
Two legal experts on Thursday said the disclosure of the AMLC report could be the basis for criminal prosecution.
Ranhilio Aquino of the San Beda Graduate School Of Law and Pacifico Agabin of University of the Philippines College of Law said the AMLC provides for a confidentiality rule and prohibits revelation of an AMLC report and “any other information in relation thereto.”
“There is confidentiality in respect to the report of the covered institutions. On the part of the AMLC, the confidentiality is in relation to judicial and prosecutorial processes,” Aquino said.
AMLC also provides secrecy on the issuance of a freeze order by a court in response to an AMLC petition, he said.
“The freeze order is meant to prevent the suspected person from dissipating the assets--selling, transferring, alienating or concealing them. This is the reason for the confidentiality requirements in the law,” Aquino said.
Aquino said the confidentiality rule under the latest version of the law, Republic Act No. 10365, applies to AMLC and “covered institutions” or the banks, stockbrokers and investment houses that are obligated to report to the council.
“AMLC and these covered institutions are not supposed to disclose the report and the freeze order,” he said.
Agabin said the AMLC could be held accountable if it is proven that the council breached the confidentiality rule.
Agabin also cited the importance of keeping AMLC reports confidential to avoid any leaks.
Asked if AMLC officials in the Binay controversy can be held liable for the leak of the report, Agabin replied in the affirmative, saying they can even be subjected to an investigation.
“The provision on confidentiality applies to AMLC persons so they will not leak the information to account holders before freezing,” he added.
However, both Aquino and Agabin agreed that the media cannot be held liable for reporting the supposedly confidential court order and AMLC report.
“The moment it becomes a matter of news, then whoever reproduces the news incurs no liability. Only the source is liable,” Aquino said.
“The media cannot be held criminally liable because of the freedom of the press,” Agabin added.
The camp of Vice President Binay has vowed to prosecute media outfits and their sources over the reports on the freeze order and AMLC report.
Binay’s lawyer Claro Certeza said the reports on the freeze order were a breach of the confidentiality rule of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
The Vice President’s daughter, Senator Nancy Binay, said the leak about the freeze order was part of an orchestrated plot by the Liberal Party to kick out its political opponents from top government posts.
“I will never forget—when my father was just proclaimed, we already heard this report about their plan to take out JPE (Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile) as Senate President, and then take out Chief Justice (Renato) Corona, and then take out the Vice President,” the senator said.
“If you are not an ally of the incumbent party, they will use all forces of government to take you out,” she added.
She also accused the Liberal Party of being behind all the charges hurled against his father, even those at the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee which is investigating the Vice President on allegations of corruption.
But she said despite a 10-month-long Senate campaign against her father, he still topped the opinion surveys as the next president for 2016.
“It’s been 10 months that they ganged up on my family. In spite of that fact, our people still trust the Vice President,” she said.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who has led the charge against Binay in the Senate, claimed victory Thursday, claiming that “the boxing [match] is over.”
“Although they are good in lying , they can no longer get out of this,” Trillanes said of the Binays.
He said in a text message if Binay withdraws his candidacy, then Filipinos can choose someone who is worthy to lead the country without fear that a thief can be elected again.
Senator Binay, however, said Trillanes, who has declared his plan to run for vice president in 2016, is being used by the administration to weaken the opposition.
The ruling Liberal Party has no alternative candidate who can beat the Vice President, she said.
The mere fact that President Benigno Aquino III recently talked to Senator Grace Poe, bares the party’s shortcomings, she added.
In a separate case involving the Binays, the Court of Appeals said it would soon begin its investigation into allegations by Trillanes that two of its justices recived bribes in exchange for stopping the suspension of Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., the Vice President’s son.
The announcement came after CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. reorganized the ethics committee under the chairmanship of Justice Sesinando Villon.
The members composing the ethics panel include Associate Justices Franchito Diamante, Manuel Barrios who were part of the original members of the committee. The other members are Associate
Justices Carmelita Salandanan-Manahan and Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla.
The CA presiding justice directed the ethics panel to convene and conduct an investigation into the bribery charges made by Trillanes against Associate Justices Jose Reyes and Francisco Acosta, and to submit a report and recommendations within 30 days.
Trillanes accused Reyes and Acosta receiving P25 million each in exchange for favorable resolutions in the case of the Makati City mayor.
The reconstitution of the ethics committee came after its previous chairman, Associate Justice Marifor Punzalan-Castillo, and members --Visayas Executive Justice Gabriel Ingles and Mindanao Executive Justice Romulo Borja – decided to recuse themselves from handling the case.
The CA’s Sixth Division composed of Acosta, Jose Reyes, and Associate Justice Eduardo Peralta issued a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the Ombudsman from implementing the six-month preventive suspension against Mayor Binay.
The findings and recommendation of the ethics committee will be submitted to the CA Presiding Justice for approval, before it is submitted to the Supreme Court for final disposition.
President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday refused to comment on the AMLC report on Binay.
“Well, number one, I have not seen that AMLC report,” said Aquino, during an interview over Radyo Bombo Philippines that aired Thursday.
Number two, Aquino said, he talked to a member of the Liberal Party, and told him that they are also looking for a copy of that AMLC report.
He said only the court and the AMLC have a right to have a copy of the report.
Aquino also declined to offer Binay any unsolicited advice.
Earlier reports alleged that the Liberal Party already had a copy of the AMLC report.
Aquino also refused to comment on statements made by Senators Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito that the investigations into the pork barrel scam were selective and aimed only at opponents of the Liberal Party.
“Maybe you should ask the Office of the Ombudsman because the Ombudsman was the one who filed the cases, and it is in the law that they have the authority to file these cases,” said Aquino.
Aquino said the Ombudsman is an independent constitutional body. –With Rey E. Requejo