Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is pushing for a change in the charter of the Anti-Money Laundering Council to remove the central bank governor from overseeing the operations of the dirty money watchdog.
In a statement, Arroyo proposed to amend Section 128 of the proposed New Central Bank Act, which would specifically prohibit the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas from supervising the operations of the AMLC but the central bank governor would still serve as a member of the Council.
Arroyo’s proposal comes amid blistering criticisms against the AMLC chaired by her appointee, BSP Governor Amado Tetangco, which was publicly slammed twice in one month by President Rodrigo Duterte for stonewalling on the Department of Justice’s probe of Sen. Leila de Lima’s links to drug trafficking at the National Bilibid Prison.
Duterte also blasted the BSP and AMLC for not only being “corrupt, lazy, and greedy” but also for being “too yellow” by targeting only political opponents of the previous administration while protecting the interests of its allied politikos like de Lima.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has identified the “yellow” members of AMLC as AMLC Executive Director Julia Baccay Abad; AMLC Deputy Director Vincent Salido; and Bank Attorney IV and Head of the Compliance and Investigation Division Rafael Echaluse (Salido and Echaluse are fraternity brothers of de Lima at San Beda Law School).
Arroyo concurred with Duterte that the AMLC acted more like the administration’s attack dog than a dirty money watchdog.
“In the previous administration, grossly inaccurate information on the alleged bank accounts of then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte and other perceived opponents of the officers’ appointing authority were leaked out. In contrast, information is now being withheld from authorized investigators on the bank accounts of certain persons under investigation, who happen to be identified with the previous authority which appointed them, and to whom they seem to owe their allegiance,” said Arroyo.
AMLC documents were widely available in the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona and the corruption probe against former Vice President Jejomar Binay.
But Arroyo claimed that Tetangco, whom she appointed to his first six-year term in 2005, did not have a hand in the investigations carried out by AMLC. Tetangco was reappointed to a second six-year term by then President Noy Aquino in 2011.
“The said agency has been acting much on its own with regard to its investigations, without bothering to get specific clearances from the BSP governor. The AMLC, whose officers were appointed by the previous administration, has demonstrated the potential of being used as a tool of selective justice,” said Arroyo in a statement.
Arroyo explained that central bank governors were largely technocrats and ill-equipped to handle criminal probes.
“Career technocrats like Tetangco do not have the temperament and training to supervise criminal investigations such as those conducted by the AMLC,” Arroyo said.
“ Therefore, to insulate the BSP officials from the actuations of AMLC, especially the political ones which may be influenced by the Council officials’ loyalty to their appointing authority, the BSP should be liberated from the burden of supervising the very rigorous demands of criminal investigation such as those performed by AMLC,” she added.