PHL BANS MONEY, ALCOHOL AHEAD OF ELECTIONS / BAN ON HOLD: WISDOM IN QUESTION


MANILA, MAY 10, 2013 (MANILA TIMES) The Philippines on Wednesday banned people from carrying large amounts of cash and buying alcohol in controversial efforts to curb rampant vote-buying and violence before elections next week.

The shock money ban means banks are not allowed to hand over more than 100,000 pesos ($2,400) to customers until after Monday's mid-term elections, the Commission on Elections announced.

The commission's directive also makes it illegal for anyone to carry more than half a million pesos in cash until polls close.

"We're trying to prevent the circulation of cash, which can be used for vote-buying," its chief Sixto Brillantes told reporters.

However the ban, which had been kept secret to ensure corrupt politicians and their aides did not withdraw large amounts of money beforehand, sparked outrage from business groups and even other branches of government.

The central bank described the ruling as "unsound" and illegal, saying it violated laws guaranteeing the secrecy of bank accounts.

Meanwhile, ordinary voters were facing the prospect of a long break from alcohol, after the election commission extended a ban that is traditionally enforced for two days before elections to five days.

Selling and drinking alcohol in public is banned until Tuesday morning.

Authorities had already been enforcing a ban on the carrying of guns in public since January to try to curb violence ahead of the elections, when more than 18,000 posts around the country will be contested.

The positions range from local council level to the nation's Congress, with elections for the fixed, six-year presidential term due in 2016.

The Philippines is infamous for a violent and corrupt brand of democracy. Politicians typically resort to bribery, intimidation or, in extreme cases, murder, with tensions peaking in the days before elections.

The husband of a town mayor and an aide were shot dead in an election-campaign ambush in the central Philippines on Monday, lifting the number of people killed in poll-related violence this year to at least 50.

In 2009 58 people were massacred in the worst single act of election-related violence in recent Philippine political history.

A political clan in the south is alleged to have carried out the murders to stamp out a rival's challenge for the post of provincial governor.

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Money ban on hold, wisdom in question By Joyce Pangco Panares | Posted on May. 09, 2013 at 12:02am | 302 views

President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday ordered his Cabinet secretaries to study the wisdom of a Commission on Elections order banning cash withdrawals of more than P100,000 a day from May 8 to 13 to prevent vote-buying.

The commission’s resolution Tuesday also barred the transportation or possession of cash exceeding P500,000 for the week preceding the May 13 elections.

“We have been receiving several complaints about the money ban, and the President has asked the relevant and appropriate Cabinet secretaries to look into the matter,” said deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte.

“While we understand very well the objective of the Comelec to want to prevent any vote-buying activities, this has to be studied.”

Valte said the study of the resolution’s “unintended consequences” would be undertaken by the departments of Justice, Finance and Trade and Industry.

The inter-agency group would also take into account the opposition raised by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipnas, which said limiting cash withdrawals and check clearing beyond P100,000 would disrupt normal business and commercial transactions.

The central bank also said enforcing the Comelec resolution would violate bank secrecy laws for both peso and foreign currency accounts.

“The BSP is also constrained from enforcing the Comelec resolution because this would necessarily entail looking into bank deposit accounts,” the central bank said in a statement. “This is essentially unsound and in violation of Republic Act No. 1405, as amended (secrecy on peso deposits) and R.A. No. 6426 (secrecy on foreign currency deposits).”

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima expressed serious doubts on the constitutionality of the Comelec resolution.

“While we concede that Comelec has broad powers especially during the election period and that the objective of the subject regulation is laudable, I have reservations about its validity or constitutionality,” De Lima said.

De Lima, an election lawyer before joining the government, said the money ban could have an adverse effect on the regular spending of the candidates.

“Doesn’t the Comelec realize that candidates and political parties have legitimate expenses at this stage of the election period up to the election day that need to be transacted in cash, such as poll watchers’ fees?” she said.

The poll body’s resolution, which was carried on a vote of 7-0, took the banking industry by surprise Tuesday.

The Bankers Association of the Philippines president Lorenzo Tan said the six-day cash ban would hamper commercial and business transactions of banks in general.

“Workers and suppliers of certain industries are paid weekly. Public markets operate on cash basis daily. We are exploring our legal options. I guess that’s why we call them demand deposits. We have fiduciary duty to keep funds and release funds on demand,” Tan said in a text message.

The president and chief executive of EastWest Bank, Tony Moncupa, said although they appreciated the Comelec’s intention, the ban would get in the way of the bank’s contractual obligation to make available to their customers their money when they need it.

“We are in consultations with other banks and are waiting to get more clarity from the authorities,” Moncupa said in a text message.

The Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines said it would await official orders from the central bank.

“We will respect and follow the decision of the BSP as a regulating body especially since the Comelec resolution may cause serious implications not only to the services we provide to our people in the countryside but also with the entire rural banking industry,” Edward Leandro Garcia, RBAP president, said.

Senator Ralph Recto called for the immediate shelving of the Comelec money ban, saying the resolution was crazy and unenforceable.

“It will have an adverse impact on business and will not stop or minimize vote-buying. It will only make it difficult for everyone transacting with banks and others when most are not involved in political activity,” Recto said, adding the ban was a novel approach but impractical in the real world.

Recto said the Comelec was treading on unconstitutional ground by interfering with the flow of private money.

“The Comelec resolution should be immediately revoked,” he said.

He said the Comelec’s money ban curtailed the freedom of every Filipino to do what he wanted with his hard-earned money. With Rey E. Requejo , Julito G. Rada, Joel E. Zurbano, Macon Ramos-Araneta and Maricel V. Cruz


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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