THE DEPARTMENT of Finance (DoF) said its focus is on effecting a broad easing of bank secrecy to facilitate tax evasion or money laundering investigations, and is not specifically concerned with accessing the bank records of government officials.

“The bill we are supporting is for everybody to be [included] but, subject to suspicions or evidence of tax evasion. You can’t just let anybody open bank records. But we are not limiting it to public officials. We are covering everybody, again subject to suspicions of money laundering for the purpose of tax evasion,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters last week.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos T. Zarate filed last month House Bill No. 7146 which requires public officials to provide prior written permission to the Office of the Ombudsman to examine, inquire into or look into their bank deposits. The measure is designed to amend the Bank Secrecy Law, or Republic Act No. 1405.

The DoF is currently pushing for the relaxation of bank secrecy restrictions, which gives the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) the power to investigate suspected tax evaders.

The measure complements a tax amnesty proposal contained in the follow-up tax reform package, referred to by the DoF as “Package 1B.”

Both measures are currently pending at committee level in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The follow-up package is intended to bridge the revenue gap created when tax reform, originally projected to earn P133.8 billion, was watered down by both chambers of Congress.

The package includes a proposed increase to the motor vehicle users tax that is likewise pending at committee level.

The DoF has said that it expects Congress to approve Package 1B in the first quarter. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan