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Bank Secrecy & Quacking Ducks

Rodney Jalecoby Rodney Jaleco
The impeachment court in the Philippines is probably one of the few places where a duck isn’t a duck even if it walks and quacks like one.

The impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona has shifted to how prosecutors got records of his dollar deposits. Beyond the question of authenticity, the argument has meandered on to the role of the Central Bank and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

Senator-Judge Joker Arroyo was alarmed over the possibility either or both of those agencies had deliberately leaked the documents to prosecutors.

“If that is true,” declared impeachment court presiding senator-judge Juan Ponce Enrile, “they they’re not respecting the law anymore.”

The bank deposits, already acknowledged by Corona, purportedly show that he had short-changed his Statement of Assets, Liabilities & Net Worth (SALN) to the tune of several millions. The money, which Corona claimed was his wife’s, was withdrawn on the same day that the House of Representatives voted to impeach him.

Both the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and AMLC denied leaking Corona’s deposit.

There is of course huge legal ramifications if they were lying and they did or someone in their office in fact leaked the records that are protected by bank secrecy laws.

Right here, there is scandal brewing over leaked documents from the Chicago-based Heartland Institute that reportedly show it tried to influence school curriculum to downplay global warming.

The documents allegedly showed how it paid $100,000 to an Energy Department consultant for a curriculum to teach schoolchildren that global warming science is in dispute despite contrary to the findings of the federal government and most scientific organizations; how it paid global warming skeptics more than $300,000 a year; and how it planned to raise $88,000 for a former TV weatherman to set up a new temperature records website.

Only recently, Wikileaks exposed secrets of the US government by posting online copies of diplomatic cables and confidential reports that it argued, exposed informants and demonstrated the US cannot be trusted to keep secrets.

All that fiery argument in the Philippines over the source of Corona’s bank records is intended to preserve secrets. Mechanisms and laws have been put in place to keep all those secrets safe, away from prying eyes. These legal firewalls have become modern imperatives because I suspect, cheating pays and they’ve grown in clout and sophistication.

This is the same philosophy that perhaps emboldened former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to appoint Corona just days before she stepped down. Her husband being a lawyer, she felt warm and secure behind the majesty of the law.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize there’s something wrong with that picture.

President Aquino, in a speech before an anti-corruption workshop earlier this month, declared that “We cannot sustainably fight corruption unless we reintroduce a sense of accountability, a sense that if you commit a crime, you will be punished.”

There are secrets that protect, and there are secrets that bring reckoning. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then by golly no law should say it isn’t a duck, no matter how much we want to keep that a secret.

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