Chiz Escudero vows to refile bill on bank secrecy waiver if elected to Senate

Published November 23, 2021, 3:46 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Former senator and incumbent Sorsogon Governor Francis ”Chiz” Escudero on Tuesday vowed to refile the bill that would make it mandatory for all government officials and employees to sign a written permission or waiver in favor of the Office of the Ombudsman to look into their bank deposits here and abroad should he get elected for another six year term in the Senate.

He said the bill would also seek to include mandatory waiver on investments in government bonds for all state workers.

“Hindi po tayo matitinag na ihain ang panukala nang paulit-ulit at ipagtanggol ito sa plenaryo kung tayo ang pagbibigyang muli ng taumbayan na maglingkod sa Senado (We are resolute to file this again and defend this in plenary if we are given again the chance to serve in the Senate),” Escudero said.

“Umaasa tayo na hindi man ngayon, darating din ang pagkakataon at panahon na magiging katangga-tanggap na ang panukala at magkaroon din ng malawakang panawagan ang mga mamamayan (We are hopeful that the time will come this bill would be acceptable to the people and there would be a public clamor for it),” the veteran legislator said.

Escudero first filed bill in 2007 when he was elected to the Senate and refiled it in 2013 in a bid to boost transparency and accountability, and curb graft and corruption within the bureaucracy.

Under Senate Bill No. 16 he filed when he was senator, Escudero sought to compel all public officials, except those who are serving in honorary capacity, to file a waiver that would allow the anti-graft court to examine the bank deposits and other investments to deter graft and corruption.

“Public office is a public trust. Government officials are accountable to the public,” Escudero said in his explanatory note in the proposed bill.

“To ensure that the civil servant does not use her position to enrich herself, it is necessary that we put in place a mechanism which will enable the government to audit the finances of the civil servant,” he stressed.

If enacted into law, the proposed law will lift restrictions under Republic Act No. 1405, or the Bank Secrecy Act of 1955, which prohibits disclosure of or inquiry into deposits with any banking institutions, as well as provides penalties of jail term or fines for offenders.

Since 2010, Escudero said he has been filing his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) together with the waiver authorizing the Office of the Ombudsman to examine his bank deposits.

“Kung wala namang itinatago, dapat walang katakutan. Kung wala naman kinakatakutan, dapat huwag itago (If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. If you have nothing to fear, you have nothing hide),” he reiterated.