MANILA – (UPDATE, 6:39 P.M) No matter how huge a public official’s bank accounts are, only a suspected predicate crime can trigger an investigation of alleged money laundering under the law, Sen. Panfilo Lacson reminded his colleague Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Monday.
Unless Trillanes can specify right now what predicate crime is possibly being violated – piracy, graft or corruption, for example, Lacson said, probers will only end up violating the Bank Secrecy Law.
Lacson saw this gap in the resolution filed by Trillanes seeking to investigate alleged breach of the Anti-Money Laundering Act by President Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. Still, the Senate leadership referred the Trillanes resolution to the blue ribbon and the Banks committees for investigation.
According to Lacson, even if a person’s bank transaction breaches the reporting threshold of P500,000, it is still important to cite a predicate crime before any serious allegation of an AMLA violation can be made.
An investigation of a particular bank account will have to be triggered by initial findings about its criminal origin: say, from piracy, or graft and corruption. In the father-and-daughter Dutertes’ case, what is the predicate crime? Lacson wanted to know.
He said this requirement of pinpointing a predicate crime to trigger a possible money-laundering investigation is clear in the AMLA.
Even assuming there’s an allegation that a person did not fully declare in his annual Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net worth the exact value of his money in banks, that cannot be determined unless details of a person’s bank deposits are revealed. In the case of Duterte, documents presented by Trillanes in an earlier exposé, as well as those supposedly validated by Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) sources but not officially authenticated, are not worthy of any official comment, according to Palace officials.
Nonetheless, Lacson said the Senate can continue its hearings into the matter, but that the situation is a difficult one in the absence of a clear predicate crime that could spell a possible violation of the AMLA by the Dutertes.
BLUE RIBBON, BANKS COMMITTEES
Trillanes’ resolution was referred, for investigation of possible AMLA violations, to the blue ribbon committee and the Senate committe on banks and institutions.
According to Senate President Koko Pimentel, the blue ribbon will be the lead committee, since there is a specific public official for investigation. If the inquiry were just focused on the systemic failure of AMLA, the lead panel would be the Banks committee.