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On The Garnishment of Bank Deposits

01.25.2001

This refers to the current issue on the garnishment of bank deposits on which our statement has been interpreted loosely, particularly in relation to the alleged deposits of former President Joseph E. Estrada. What we have been doing is merely to state the provisions of existing law on the secrecy of banks deposits, such as R.A. No. 6426 on foreign currency deposits.

We are mindful of the three (3) instances which have been reported to be exceptions to the rule on non-garnishment/disclosure of currency deposits. The first is the Supreme Court ruling in Salvacion vs. Central Bank of the Philippines and China Bank which allowed the attachment of the foreign currency deposits of an American tourist who kidnapped and raped a twelve-year old Filipino child. The second is the opinion of the Secretary of Justice dated February 24, 1987 which held that the authority of the PCGG to track down and recover the ill-gotten wealth of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, his relatives and cronies should prevail over the provisions of law conferring confidentiality of banks deposits, particularly, R.A. Nos. 1405 (Bank Deposit Secrecy Law) and 6426 (Foreign Currency Deposit Law) since these statutory constraints should not be allowed to frustrate the PCGG’s mission as clearly mandated by law. The third is the decision in the PNB vs. Gancayco case which declared that unexplained wealth cases under the Anti-Graft Law (R.A. No. 3019) should be considered as an additional exception to R.A. No. 1405.

It is not clear from the Gancayco ruling, however, on whether foreign currency deposits under R.A. No. 6426 are covered thereby. The said law states that foreign currency deposits are of an absolutely confidential nature and cannot be disclosed without the written permission of the depositor.

In the case of garnishment orders, the position we have consistently taken at the BSP is that responding thereto is a justiceable matter which pertains to the judgment and discretion of the bank concerned and in the exercise of which the BSP would have no authority to interfere; and that, consequently, said bank should obtain advice from their private counsel. It is also our position, on the issue of whether or not the Bureau of Internal Revenue would have authority under the tax code to issue a constructive distrait order on bank deposits, that this is a matter which requires the interpretation of the tax laws, an area which is beyond BSP’s jurisdiction. This function inherently belongs to the courts.

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