WATCH | Did Comelec chief Bautista engage in money laundering? Lacson, Sotto want to know via Senate probe

August 18, 2017 - 4:32 PM
Andres Bautista
Comelec chairman Andres Bautista. File Photo by EDD GUMBAN, Philstar

MANILA, Philippines – Senators Panfilo Lacson and Vicente “Tito” Sotto III want to know if Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista and a bank where the poll chief allegedly maintains many accounts had violated the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).

Thus the two lawmakers on Thursday filed Senate Resolution No. 468 directing the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies to conduct an inquiry into claims that Bautista has 35 separate accounts with Luzon Development Bank (LDB), consisting of 30 accounts at the Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City branch and five accounts at the Makati City branch, totaling to P329 million.

“(T)he splitting of the accounts of the Comelec chair in one small thrift bank so as not to be under the radar of the Anti-Money Laundering Council…needs to be further looked into,” the senators said.

Lacson and Sotto said that it must also be investigated whether LDB, “as a covered institution under the AMLA,” took “reasonable measures” to “determine” whether its client Bautista is a politically exposed person or PEP.

The AMLA defines a PEP as an individual who is or has been entrusted with prominent public position in the (a) Philippines with substantial authority over policy, operations, or the use or allocation of government-owned resources (b)a foreign state or (c) an international organization.

The term PEP includes immediate family members and close relationships and associates that are reputedly known to have (1)joint beneficial ownership of a legal entity or legal arrangement with the main or principal PEP or (2) sole beneficial ownership of a legal entity or legal arrangement that is known to exist for the benefit of the main or principal PEP.

The senators cited in their resolution Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ Circular No. 950 of 2017 mandating covered institutions such as LDB “to 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.”

“(T)he same BSP circular implies that the enhanced due diligence shall be applied by the covered institutions to those individual customers who are considered as PEP,” the resolution said.

“In the case of the LDB and the bank accounts of the Comelec chair, the compliance with the required due diligence must be studied and investigated,” Lacson and Sotto said.

“LDB, although a small thrift bank, must be equally monitored just like the big commercial and universal banks, as the AMLA covers all banks without providing any qualifications,” they added.

LDB was established in 1961 as Laguna Development Bank to promote countryside banking Laguna under the leadership of Rene H. Limcaoco with his father sugar planter Dr. Felix Sr.

It in 1975, it was renamed Luzon Development Bank and expanded its business outside Laguna.

Among LDB’s directors is Rene “Timmy” Katigbak Limcaoco, who was the Department of Transportation and Communications undersecretary for planning and infrastructure projects during the Aquino administration.

Rene and the Comelec chief were classmates at the Ateneo de Manila High School.

Bautista said he had chosen to open accounts with LBD because he knew and trusted its owners.

Data from the BSP showed that as of March 31, 2017, LDB has total assets of P5.749 billion and total liabilities of P5.403 billion or a total net asset of P346 million.