As an independent central monetary authority the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has the responsibility to ensure that careful evaluation of critical elements is made before final decisions are promulgated.
It is unfortunate therefore that Mr. Roberto V. Ongpin calls the decision of the BSP’s Monetary Board to defer confirmation of his election as member of the Board of Directors of PBCom as ‘unwarranted and patently unfair.’ For the record, the Monetary Board has not denied but simply deferred Mr. Ongpin’s confirmation pending completion of assessment of certain material information.
The relationship between the BSP and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has to be properly understood. Under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, the BSP Governor is the concurrent Chairman of the AMLC. As such, in the absence of the Governor, the three Deputy Governors who take turns in being designated as BSP Officer-in-Charge also become Acting Chair of the AMLC. BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. was away on official business when Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. was designated as BSP OIC and Acting Chair of AMLC when the petition to the Court of Appeals for the freezing of Mr. Ongpin’s accounts was presented to the Council by the AMLC Secretariat, discussed and subsequently unanimously approved for filing. By law, AMLC decisions should be approved by all three members: the heads of the BSP, the Insurance Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The BSP notes with concern therefore that Mr. Ongpin singles out BSP Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. as the cause of the freezing of his accounts. He claims that “Espenilla has caused my reputation the gravest damage by his signing an ex-parte petition with the Court of Appeals that my bank accounts be frozen.”
Mr. Ongpin is wrong. The Court of Appeals said probable cause exists to freeze the subject bank accounts based on the AMLC petition filed by the lawyers of the Office of the Solicitor General, the AMLC’s statutory counsel. Last September, the Ombudsman issued a resolution finding probable cause to indict Mr. Ongpin along with other respondents in the criminal case filed by the Development Bank of the Philippines with the Ombudsman related to loans granted for the acquisition of shares of the Philex Mining Corporation.
The Ombudsman said the facts indicate violations of Republic Act No. 3019 otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and that the crime of money laundering may have been committed. The Ombudsman therefore referred the matter to the Anti-Money Laundering Council for immediate action.
Mr. Ongpin maintains that he has no rancor against BSP as an institution. He said: “I believe that Bangko Sentral has done an outstanding job in the management of the currency and the banking system which has contributed immensely to the excellent financial health that our economy is now experiencing.“ This is a fair assessment; the BSP is focused on doing its Constitutional mandate.
In this connection, among the reasons behind the strong and stable Philippine banking system are the timely and responsive banking sector policies of the Monetary Board which has been ably supported by the BSP’s banking supervision and examination sector (SES) headed by Deputy Governor Espenilla, a career central banker for over three decades now. He has provided excellent reforms-oriented leadership as sector-in-charge of the BSP’s SES in the last seven years.