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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ombudsman: Probe Binay bank accounts


BY JOMAR CANLAS SENIOR REPORTER, FERNAN MARSAIGAN AND JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA
THE MANILA TIMES
Carpio-Morales.4The Office of the Ombudsman has pushed the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to file a petition with the Court of Appeals (CA) in order to examine bank accounts of Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family.
According to a well-placed source of The Manila Times, the Ombudsman had requested the AMLC to check the bank accounts of the Binays in view of pending plunder charges against the Vice President.
“It was the Office of the Ombudsman [that] asked the Anti-Money Laundering Council to investigate the bank accounts of Binay,” the source said.
Several high-ranking officials of the Office of the Ombudsman are said to have connections with former Defense Secretary Avelino “Nonong” Cruz, the lawyer for Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd.
Cruz oversaw canvassing of votes for Roxas, who ran and lost to Binay in the race for Vice President in the May 2010 elections.
He is currently the partner of former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, having broken away from “The Firm,” the former Carpio Villaraza Cruz Marcelo law office.
“The Firm,” once the most powerful law office in the Philippines, is perceived to have made a big comeback, occupying top posts and key positions at the Office of the Ombudsman.
The office is headed by Conchita Carpio-Morales, a cousin of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd has appointed former Assistant Ombudsman Cyril Ramos to become the new Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices.
Ramos was a former Assistant Ombudsman for Administration during Marcelo’s time.
Gerard Mosquera, a former director, is now Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon.
Melchor Arthur Carandang, a former Assistant Ombudsman, is now Overall Deputy Ombudsman, the second-highest post in Morales’ office.
Carandang was once charged with robbery-extortion case but was eventually cleared by the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office.
The Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao is Rodolfo Elman, a native of Davao and an ally of Court of Appeals Justice Agnes Reyes-Carpio, a sister-in-law of Morales.
In the long line of AMLC cases in the Court of Appeals after Republic Act 9160 was passed into law, this is the first time that bank accounts of the Vice President of the Philippines are being sought for examination.
This makes Binay as the highest-ranking government official being investigated by the council for having supposedly amassed wealth or assets unlawfully.
The appellate court allowing the AMLC to peek into the bank accounts of the Vice President and his family, their corporations and a law office where a family member was once a partner, will “maliciously break” bank confidentiality, according to lawyer Rico Paolo Quicho.
Quicho, the Vice President’s spokesman on political affairs, also expressed alarm over the AMLC’s move even as he questioned the legality of such action.
“The report that AMLC is requesting the court to inspect the Vice President, his family and friends’ bank accounts is really alarming for it would maliciously break bank confidentiality without any legitimate basis to do so,” he said in a text message.
As they await the CA decision on the matter, Quicho added, the Vice President’s camp “will act appropriately consistent with the protection of his rights and those of his family.”
“The Vice President has time and again stated that he has nothing to hide and will fully cooperate with the proper authorities,” the lawyer said.
On Wednesday, Binay’s camp in a statement said the government’s move smacked of “persecution.”
There is nothing wrong with the AMLC’s move to get permission from the CA for it to look into the bank accounts and businesses linked to the Vice President.
It could even help Binay clear his name and finally put all allegations of
corruption to rest, Sen Francis Escudero said also on Thursday.
“AMLC filed an ex-parte petition to the Court of Appeals, and they cannot do that if they don’t have evidence or basis required by the court,” Escudero explained during the weekly Kapihan sa Senado news forum.
Apart from the Vice President, the bank records of his wife Elenita Binay, and children Makati City (Metro Manila) Rep. Abigail Binay and Makati Mayor Erwin Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr. are reportedly being targeted.
Escudero said while Binay and his allies may view the action of the AMLC as a form of political harassment, since the council is under the executive branch, the move could even work to the Vice President’s advantage.
“If the AMLC found nothing, it would show that the Vice President has no ill-gotten wealth,” he pointed out.
Escudero said it is “the job of the AMLC to scrutinize bank accounts of individuals believed to be engaged in money-laundering, and the council cannot be prevented from doing it just because the one being investigated is claiming political harassment,” Escudero said.

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