Drug pushers, manufacturers, cultivators, importers and financiers can no longer hide their ill-gotten money in banks, as a bill filed by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson seeks to strip them of their rights under the Bank Secrecy Act.
Lacson said his Senate Bill 1025, which strengthens the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, is a proactive move to support the government’s unrelenting war against illegal drugs.
“Experiences of the past tell us that our country’s high regard to the secrecy of bank deposits results to law enforcers’ limited authority in terms of confiscation and forfeiture of money or proceeds of the sale or trade of illegal drugs,” he said in his bill, titled “An Act Authorizing the Examination of Bank Deposits, Accounts and Records of Pushers, Manufacturers, Cultivators, Importers and Financiers of Dangerous Drugs, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 9165 and for Other Purposes.”
[Download: Senate Bill 1025, Judicial Authorization to Examine Bank Deposits, Accounts and Records of Drug Suspects]
The bill allows the examination of bank accounts, deposits and records of pushers, manufacturers, cultivators, importers and financiers of dangerous drugs, in keeping with the Philippines’ obligation under the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (Vienna Convention).
It empowers the courts or other competent authorities to order bank, financial or commercial records be made available or be seized.
Under Lacson’s bill, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation may seek written court orders for the examination of bank records of a person against whom probable cause is established.
Special divisions of the Court of Appeals that would issue such court orders shall be designated by the Supreme Court, one each for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The written order granted by the authorizing division of the Court of Appeals, the original ex-parte application, and the written authorizations from the heads of the PDEA, PNP or NBI, are deemed classified information. But the person whose bank accounts have been examined or frozen has the right to be informed of the acts done by the authorities.
Bank data and information obtained via the examination of records shall be deposited with the authorizing division of the Court of Appeals in a sealed envelope or package. The sealed envelope or package shall not be opened unless authorized in writing by the authorizing division of the Court of Appeals.
“It shall be unlawful for any person, police officer or custodian of the bank data and information obtained after examination of deposits, placements, trust accounts, assets and records to copy, to remove, delete, expunge, incinerate, shred or destroy in any manner the items enumerated above in whole or in part under any pretext whatsoever,” Lacson said.
Information acquired from the examination of the bank deposits shall not be used in the prosecution of offenses not related to the anti-drug law.
Anyone who copies, removes, deletes, expunges or destroys such items may be penalized with imprisonment from six to 12 years.
On the other hand, a law enforcement official or judicial authority who fails to notify in writing shall face six to eight years in jail.
Unauthorized or malicious examination of bank data may net 10 to 12 years in jail. Bank officials and employees defying a court-authorized examination face imprisonment of 10 to 12 years as well. Similarly, false statements or misrepresentation of facts may net 10 to 12 years in jail.
Seized, sequestered and frozen bank deposits and assets shall be deemed as property held in trust by the bank or financial institution for the person and the government while the investigation or trial is ongoing.
If the person is found innocent or is acquitted, the seizure will be deemed lifted and the bank deposits deemed released. But if the person is convicted, the seized assets are forfeited in favor of the government.
Unjustified refusal or delay in restoring the seized assets may net 10 to 12 years in jail. Loss, misuse, diversion or dissipation of seized assets may net 10 to 12 years in jail.