Comelec amends ‘money ban’

MANILA -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) amended its resolution imposing a "money ban" ahead of next week's midterm elections, after the central bank called the move illegal.

"We are concerned likewise on the commerce and business so we will put there a provision where we limit (the withdrawal) to P100,000 per day. We're giving discretion to banks, bank tellers and bank officials since they have what is known as customer relationship," Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said in an ambush interview Thursday.

With the amendatory and supplemental resolution, Brillantes said banks will risk granting withdrawals beyond the limit of P100,000.

The amended resolution states, "The Commission resolved to exempt withdrawals, which to the determination of the bank, are routine, regular and made in the ordinary course of business of the withdrawing client consistent with the prevailing 'Know-Your-Client/Customer' policy of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas."

The BSP on Wednesday rejected Resolution 9688, as it allegedly violates the laws on secrecy of bank deposits—both peso and foreign accounts.

Under the resolution, the Comelec will prohibit withdrawal of cash or encashment of checks worth more than P100,000, as well as transportation and possession of cash exceeding P500,000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency from May 8 to 13.

"Limiting cash withdrawal and check clearing beyond P100,000 may disrupt normal business and commercial transactions in the Philippines," the BSP said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also opposed the ban, saying it may have violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution while President Benigno Aquino III himself ordered a review of the resolution.

Aquino said while the intention of Comelec is laudable, the money ban is short of saying that the poll body wants the economy to flunk during its implementation.

"Yung mungkahi doon sa hundred thousand parang shot-gun approach na bagamat baka mahinto mo nga, ano, e marami ka ring hinihintong hindi mo naman balak hintuin (The proposal on the P100,000 withdrawal limit is like shotgun approach, although you may prevent the practice of vote-buying, you may also prevent others that you do not intend to stop)," he told reporters.

Banks remain defiant despite changes made to the resolution.

Members of the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) asked the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a temporary restraining order or status quo ante order on the resolution.

It also called on the SC to scrap the resolution, agreeing with the position of the BSP that it is not good for the economy, especially for businesses which rely on large withdrawals of money to sustain daily operations.

"The money ban resolution constitutes a deprivation of liberty and property in so far as it unduly and unreasonably restricts and prohibits the withdrawal of cash, encashment of checks, conversion of monetary instruments into cash and the possession, transportation and carrying of cash," the petition for prohibition stated.

BAP, which groups commercial and universal banks, said it will only follow orders from regulators Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the BSP.

The SC earlier pushed the Comelec to abandon its resolution extending the liquor ban to five days from the customary two days, which begins on the eve of the elections.

Brillantes said the money ban is effectively immediately, countering the view of election lawyer Romulo Macalintal that the resolution shall only be effective after seven days of publication.

"Ordinarily, it should be seven days but in instances like this, lampas ng eleksyon eh. Can we not amend our own rules? When we say it's implementable immediately, that is the amendment," he said. (Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)
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