BSP examiner suspected of lying may be cited for contempt

Posted on March 02, 2012

SENATE PRESIDENT Juan Ponce Enrile has asked the banks, financial institutions and currencies committee to cite in contempt a central bank examiner for allegedly lying under oath during the panel’s inquiry into the probable leak of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona’s records at the Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank).

"I motion that Mr. [Jerry L.] Leal be cited in contempt," Mr. Enrile said during the committee’s hearing yesterday.

At the hearing, it was found that PSBank gave Mr. Leal photocopies of five signature cards including Mr. Corona’s in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) "exit conference" of the audit on PSBank sometime in September to November 2010.

PSBank President Pascual M. Garcia III said: "Mr. Leal asked for the documents pertaining to the accounts of Mr. Corona and with seven others in an e-mail" on Nov. 24, 2010.

"Photocopies were turned over to Mr. Leal by our compliance officer in the exit conference on Nov. 25," he added.

Despite finally admitting that he did see a copy of Mr. Corona’s signature card, Mr. Leal said: "The BSP does not have a copy of the signature cards."

He added that he did take copies of signature cards outside PSBank premises but had left these at the bank after the audit.

Mr. Leal last Monday denied he even saw a copy of Mr. Corona’s signature cards during their audit of PSBank in 2010.

The BSP was examining the bank’s compliance in tagging high-risk political figures as "politically exposed persons" (PEP) pursuant to Republic Act (RA) No. 9160, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001.

Meanwhile, Mr. Enrile said: "I suspected all along that he [Mr. Leal] was the leak. We’ll have to teach a lesson to bureaucrats who toy with our laws."

The committee has been conducting hearings to clarify the circumstances surrounding the BSP examination of PSBank in connection with the deposit accounts of the Chief Justice.

The Senate is trying to find out who "leaked" the documents to prosecution on Mr. Corona’s pending impeachment case, as it violates banking laws on secrecy.

Mr. Leal could be held liable under Republic Acts (RA) 1405 and 6426 or the Bank Secrecy Law and Foreign Currency Deposit Act, respectively.

The panel has given Mr. Leal and the BSP until Monday to explain their case in a show-cause order, while PSBank was ordered to bring the minutes of the Nov. 25 forum.

The committee, likewise, told the central bank to launch an independent investigation and create an "accurate" report on the matter.

BSP Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. told the hearing that the central bank will comply. He, however, refused to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, Senator Sergio R. Osmeña III, committee chairman, said the panel may vote whether to cite Mr. Leal in contempt on Tuesday.

"There is a motion to cite [Mr. Leal] in contempt. We need the majority vote of the entire committee to grant it," he told reporters after the hearing.

The banks, financial institutions and currencies committee has 12 members, only five of which were present on yesterday’s hearing.

Mr. Osmeña, moreover, said he leaves it up to both prosecution and defense teams to argue whether PSBank records are still admissible as evidence.

Evidence that is illegally acquired could not be admitted for evidence, but Mr. Osmeña cautioned that the legality of the way PSBank records were obtained is still being disputed.

Prosecutors had said that an anonymous "small lady" gave them a copy of Mr. Corona’s bank records at PSBank. -- Antonio Siegfrid O. Alegado