Philippines' largest banks to be summoned by Senate

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011


THE Philippines' largest and second-largest banks, including other financial institutions, may soon be summoned to the Senate to explain why large sums deposited by generals went unnoticed.

This was contained in a motion filed Tuesday by Senator Sergio Osmeña III during a hearing covering amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Law.

Banco de Oro (BDO), Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co., Philippine Savings Bank, United Overseas Bank, and the Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loan Association Inc. (AFPSLAI) should explain why the millions allegedly deposited in the accounts of former generals Carlos Garcia, Jacinto Ligot, and Angelo Reyes were allowed "without having been any alarm," Osmeña said.

BDO, the bank controlled by mall magnate Henry Sy, is the largest bank in terms of assets while Metrobank is the second-largest. PS Bank is the retail banking unit of Metrobank.

Osmeña intends to find out how banks determine that a depositor has the means to accumulate that much money.

Ligot has been accused of accumulating P740 million in accounts held by members of his family and himself while Carlos Garcia has been charged with plunder for allegedly stealing more than P300 million from military funds.

The bank accounts of Reyes, who was accused by a former military budget officer of receiving money diverted from discretionary funds, were not mentioned in previous congressional hearings. He killed himself in February.

Osmeña's motion was supported by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, who presided over the hearing. He immediately ordered the committee secretariat to send out invitations.

For his part, Senator Franklin Drilon said banks have a duty to report suspicious transactions.

Unusual transactions should have raised red flags with the banks.

Deposits and withdrawals allegedly made by Garcia, Ligot, and Ligot's brother-in-law Edgardo Yambao should have been considered suspicious because they had no visible means of income, Drilon explained.

"General Ligot's children did not have jobs to justify (the amounts in their accounts). The banks should have known that there was something wrong that these people had large accounts," he said.

In previous Senate hearings on military corruption, it was found that Ligot's children had more money in their accounts than they could have earned.

Paulo Ligot, whom his father said was a farm manager, withdrew P600,000 from his AFPSLAI account in 2003.

Riza Ligot, a call center agent, meanwhile, had as much as P832,981 in her AFPSLAI account in 2002.

Yambao, meanwhile, was able to buy condominium units and cars despite not having any declared income from 1999-2004.

Drilon said Yambao accumulated an estimated P300 million in assets in those years. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

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