Banks reject Comelec's 'money ban'

Posted at 05/08/13 4:15 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Banks on Wednesday said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) order banning large withdrawals to fight vote-buying will disrupt business.

They will follow the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which says the order is unenforceable and may be illegal.

The Bankers Association of the Philippines, in a statement, said the ban could affect payrolls and businesses including public markets.

"Workers and suppliers of certain industries are paid weekly. Public markets operate on a cash basis daily. We will comply with the directives of our regulators, the BSP and SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission)," the group said.

The BSP on Tuesday night said although it supports the Comelec's goal to ensure clean and honest elections, the limit on withdrawals would disrupt business and commercial transactions across the country.

It also said the Comelec order would require it to look into bank deposits that could violate bank deposit secrecy laws.

The Comelec on Tuesday passed a resolution banning withdrawals of P100,000 and more from Wednesday until election day to help clamp down on vote-buying.

It said it was ordering the BSP to enforce the resolution, even while noting that the BSP had objected.

Meanwhile, the Employers' Confederation of the Philippines said the Comelec order will hurt businesses, especially small-scale enterprises.

ECOP president Edgardo Lacson echoed the bankers' statement that many businesses have many cash transactions, including paying daily and weekly workers.

"Hindi naman ho maganda resolution iyan," he told radio dzMM. "Wala naman sigurong politician na ngayon lang magwi-withdraw ngayon lang eh."

"Para ho tayong nag-declare ng business holiday dahil sarado yung mga transaksyon dun sa mga negosyante na nangangailangan ng cash hindi naman ho lahat 'di tseke eh," he added.


A constitutional law expert said the Comelec order may be unconstitutional because it is trying to regulate the right of a citizen to his property or money.

"Pwede nating kwestiyunin iyan, kasi meron tayong tinatawag na basic constitutional rights," Atty. Antonio Jamon told dzMM.

"Heto, pasok sa violation ng individual rights to property kasi paano mo gagamitin ang ari-arian at pera, basic na ari-arian ng tao at hindi naman heto pwedeng panghimasukan ng state, police power," he added.

The Comelec is still asking the public to give the "money ban" a chance.

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said on ANC Headstart that the only way to control vote-buying a week before the elections is to regulate the circulation of cash.

He added that depositors who withdraw more than P100,000 on a regular basis should be exempted from the ban, and only unusual withdrawals prohibited.

"There is a debate as to whether we can deputize the central bank. They say they are independent, but the Constitution states we can deputize all government agencies during the election period. We're saying tingnan lang natin. We're limiting it to cash," he said.

"They cannot claim businesses will be disrupted kasi kilala naman ng bangko who are their regular customers that should be allowed to continue," he added.

Brillantes also claims that the "money ban" will not violate the bank secrecy law.

PNoy orders study

Calling the issue urgent, President Benigno Aquino ordered the secretaries of justice, trade, and finance to study the Comelec's resolution.

"We have to look at the consequences of the resolution. While the Comelec, as I have earlier stated, we understand perfectly the objective. Kasi ang pinupuntirya nila is 'yung labanan 'yung vote-buying and nobody will disagree that that is an objective that should be. That is under the mandate of the Comelec," deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Wednesday.

"However, given the concerns that have been raised, not just by the BSP but also by several groups from the time that the news broke, these consequences will have to be looked into," she added. - reports from ANC Business Nightly, dzMM