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On this page: Senate Hearing on RCBC ($81-M Bangladesh bank heist)
IT'S FINAL:
SC - COMELEC HAS TO PRINT VOTE RECEIPTS FOR MAY POLLS


MARCH 17 -The Commission on Elections will really have to print voting receipts for the May national elections. This was after the high court affirmed on Thursday an earlier decision compelling the poll body to activate the voter verification paper audit trail (VVPAT) feature of the vote counting machines.
In a media briefing, SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman said the tribunal voted unanimously to deny the Comelec motion seeking to reverse the SC’s March 8 decision. Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Lucas Bersamin were on leave, while Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who did not attend the oral arguments, did not leave his vote. Responding immediately after the announcement, former Sen. Richard Gordon, who filed the petition, said the Comelec does not need additional time to activate the VVPAT and make changes in the machines' source code. "Hindi mahirap ayusin ang source code. Nagawa nila nung February 8 and 9. Pinalitan nila [ang source code] dahil may hindi nagtugma [sa machines]... Ginawa rin nila iyon noong automated elections noong 2010. Nadiskubre nilang may diperensiya. Nabilang at napalitan nila ang makina, 76,000. Napalitan lahat ng CF cards. Nakakagulat iyon. Kaya malakas ang loob ko na kaya iyan," he said. Gordon urged the media to find out why the Comelec has long been opposing the implementation of several security features for the elections, including digital signatures in the past polls, and the VVPAT for the May polls. "Bakit ayaw nila? I beg of you—why don't you ask them why they don't want to implement the source code? Dalawang elections, hindi ipinapakita ang source code... Bakit pati itong VVPAT, ayaw nila?" said Gordon. He said he wondered why Comelec was able to put up the on-screen verification feature for the machines despite being more expensive than printing receipts. "Aba ay hmmm... mukhang may mahiwagang nangyayari," said the former lawmaker. He said he filed his petition only after the Comelec officially decided in February to forego with the receipts because that was the only time the issue became a "justiciable" one. READ MORE...RELATED, EXPLAINER: Why it's alright not to have voting receipts...AND Supreme Court orders Comelec to enable printing of ballot receipts...

ALSO: BAUTISTA's SOLUTION - 100,000 pairs of scissors to avoid delays in May elections


MARCH 19 -The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is hoping 100,000 pairs of scissors would prevent delays in the May 9. 
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said scissors may help the poll body solve the possibility of frequent paper jams as the vote-counting machines (VCMs) print vote receipts on election day. "Naghahanap tayo ng mga paraan kung papaanong mababawasan, mami-mitigate ang mga risk na ito. So ilan sa mga ginawa namin, ito nga, sa paper jam, nagsimula na rin kami ng bidding para sa gunting," Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista announced Friday. The announcement came a day after the Supreme Court junked the poll body's petition against its earlier order to enable the VCMs' feature to vote receipts.
SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman Theodore Te said the magistrated voted unanimously to junk the petition. The poll body had said that the VCMs may frequently experience paper jams because its built-in cutters are not heavy duty and voters may not know how to properly rip off vote receipts. Bautista said that the scissors should be priced at P12 each, a total of P1.2 million for 100,000 pairs. He also announced that the poll body is bidding out a supply contract for 92,509 plastic receptacles, each priced at P300 or a total of P27,752,700. After reviewing the vote receipts, the voters will be asked to drop these to the receptacles before leaving the polling places. "Meron nang prototype na ipinakita sa atin. Mag-uumpisa na rin ang bidding diyan," Bautista said. The receptacles' prototypes are white boxes that bear the Comelec's logo. READ MORE...

ALSO: CEO Lorenzo Tan - Launder raps filed vs RCBC exec


MARCH 16 -Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. president and CEO Lorenzo Tan attends a Senate hearing yesterday on the $81 million stolen by hackers from the Bank of Bangladesh. He denied involvement and invoked bank secrecy laws. At right, Maia Santos-Deguito, RCBC branch manager, takes her oath before the hearing, during which she kept mum, invoking her right against self-incrimination. GEREMY PINTOLO
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to investigate the money laundering complaint filed against a branch manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) last week.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano told reporters the AMLC complaint has been assigned to Assistant State Prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Pacamarra for preliminary investigation to determine whether there is probable cause to warrant the filing of criminal charges of money laundering under Section 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in court against Maia Santos-Deguito. Arellano, chief of the DOJ’s prosecutorial arm, said the handling prosecutor would issue a subpoena on Deguito and other respondents in the complaint as well as set hearings. In its nine-page complaint, AMLC deputy director Vencent Salido sought the indictment of Deguito and four other respondents – Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez, the supposed owners of the bank accounts where $80,884,641.63 stolen by hackers from the Bank of Bangladesh were reportedly wired. The council included the four individuals in the complaint despite an initial finding that the names might be fictitious. Filipino-Chinese businessman William Go, to whom the amount was reportedly transferred before the money was laundered in local casinos, was not among the respondents. READ MORE...

ALSO: CLOSED DOOR -Senate RCBC hearing on Deguito’s testimony


MARCH 17 -Maia S. Deguito, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) branch manager. PHILSTAR PHOTO
Senators held a closed-door meeting on Thursday to hear the testimony of Maia Santos-Deguito, branch manager of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), who is at the center of the alleged $81 million money laundering scheme.
Deguito has been requesting the Senate blue ribbon committee to hear her testimony in an executive session, citing the case that has already been filed against her in connection with her alleged involvement in the scheme. The committee finally acceded to the request of Deguito after Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile moved to cite the branch manager in contempt for refusing to answer his question whether or not there was a threat to her life after she was embroiled in the controversy. This was after Romualdo Agarrado, former customers service head of the branch, earlier quoted Deguito as saying that “I’d rather do this than me being killed or my family.” READ: P20 million cash loaded to RCBC branch head’s vehicle—witness Agarrado said Deguito made the remark in front of him and assistant branch manager Angela Torres in the morning of February 9. However, Deguito denied making such statement, saying she was willing to tell all in an executive session. READ MORE...RELATED, AMLC seeks FBI help on $81-M cyber heist...

ALSO: RCBC PROBE SHOWS - Deguito drove off with P20M after forging Go's signature


MARCH 17 -DEQUITO -The internal probe by the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) into the alleged $81-million money laundering case found that Jupiter branch manager Maia Deguito (photo) not only set up bogus bank accounts under the name of businessman William Go.
According to Attorney Macel Fernandez-Estavillo, head of the RCBC's Legal and Regulatory Affairs Group, Deguito also forged Go's signature in withdrawal slips to drive away with P20 million taken from a questionable peso account. Estavillo made the remarks before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and on the strength of a waiver issued by Go regarding his supposed bank accounts with the RCBC branch on Jupiter Street, Makati. Go earlier denied owning the bank accounts, saying Deguito had told him that it was she who opened them. "On February 5, substantial amount of funds entered Mr. William Go's account, $22.7 million entered his account. Between 6 to 7 o'clock in the afternoon, P20 million cash was withdrawn from his peso account," she said. Estavillo said Jupiter branch senior customer relationship officer, Angela Torres, told bank investigators that the funds were placed in Go's Lexus SUV somewhere in Burgos Circle, Taguig City. She added that Go supposedly was also asked sign the withdrawal slips somewhere in the area. "We have done independent verification and the addresses (of Mr. Go) are false (in the dollar and peso accounts). We did an internal verification and the signatures of his peso and dollar accounts do not seem to match his signatures in his other account in our Trinoma branch (Quezon City)," Estavillo said. "With a high degree of certainty, the questioned signatures allegedly signed by one Mr. William S. Go were not signed by one and the same person and was therefore a result of simulated forgery," she added, reading the certification of the verifyer. READ MORE...RELATED, FORMER Officer of RCBC: Deguito offered me P5-M bribe...

ALSO:
Philrem to return P10M to Bangladesh


MARCH 18 -IN THE HOT SEAT Salud Bautista, president of Philrem remittance company, responds to questions during the Senate hearing on Thursday. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE 
The foreign exchange remittance company that converted into pesos the $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh central bank Thursday apologized to the ambassador of the impoverished South Asian nation and offered to return all proceeds it made from the transaction.
Speaking before the Senate blue ribbon committee, Philrem Services Inc. president Salud Bautista said her firm would issue a check in the name of the government of Bangladesh representing her company’s earnings from the deal. “We are sorry,” Bautista said, adding Philrem did not know the funds were stolen from Bangladesh.She said the firm would immediately write a check for P10,474,654 and turn it over to Bangladeshi representatives. Earlier during the Senate hearing, Maia Deguito, branch manager of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) which is at the center of the money-laundering scandal, said Kim Wong had referred to her the supposed holders of the four fictitious accounts, who received part of the money stolen from Bangladesh Bank. Deguito also linked RCBC president/CEO Lorenzo Tan to Wong. Wong is among those being investigated by the Senate in the laundering of $81 million but he skipped the hearing because his lawyer said he had been out of the country since March 4 for medical treatment. ‘Referred accounts’ After she testified in a closed-door session, Deguito answered some of the questions from senators during the resumption of the public hearing. Asked by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile how the four bank accounts were created at the RCBC branch on Jupiter Street in Makati City, Dequito said the four were “referred accounts.” She described Wong as a friend of Tan. READ MORE...RELATED, Bangladesh rejects P10M return offer by remitting firm...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

IT'S FINAL: SC - COMELEC HAS TO PRINT VOTE RECEIPTS FOR MAY POLLS

MANILA, MARCH 21, 2016 (GMA NEWS) March 17, 2016 2:54pm By MARK MERUEÑAS, GMA News - The Commission on Elections will really have to print voting receipts for the May national elections.

This was after the high court affirmed on Thursday an earlier decision compelling the poll body to activate the voter verification paper audit trail (VVPAT) feature of the vote counting machines.

In a media briefing, SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman said the tribunal voted unanimously to deny the Comelec motion seeking to reverse the SC’s March 8 decision.

Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Lucas Bersamin were on leave, while Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who did not attend the oral arguments, did not leave his vote.

Responding immediately after the announcement, former Sen. Richard Gordon, who filed the petition, said the Comelec does not need additional time to activate the VVPAT and make changes in the machines' source code.

"Hindi mahirap ayusin ang source code. Nagawa nila nung February 8 and 9. Pinalitan nila [ang source code] dahil may hindi nagtugma [sa machines]... Ginawa rin nila iyon noong automated elections noong 2010. Nadiskubre nilang may diperensiya. Nabilang at napalitan nila ang makina, 76,000. Napalitan lahat ng CF cards. Nakakagulat iyon. Kaya malakas ang loob ko na kaya iyan," he said.

Gordon urged the media to find out why the Comelec has long been opposing the implementation of several security features for the elections, including digital signatures in the past polls, and the VVPAT for the May polls.

"Bakit ayaw nila? I beg of you—why don't you ask them why they don't want to implement the source code? Dalawang elections, hindi ipinapakita ang source code... Bakit pati itong VVPAT, ayaw nila?" said Gordon.

He said he wondered why Comelec was able to put up the on-screen verification feature for the machines despite being more expensive than printing receipts.

"Aba ay hmmm... mukhang may mahiwagang nangyayari," said the former lawmaker.

He said he filed his petition only after the Comelec officially decided in February to forego with the receipts because that was the only time the issue became a "justiciable" one.

READ MORE...

Gordon emphasized that the receipts that the Comelec would be printing have to contain a timestamp, ballot ID and precinct numbers.

"Otherwise, it is just a mere scrap of paper. O, kumain ka? O, eto ang resibo mo. Bakit walang date? Bakit 'di nakalagay?" said Gordon.

‘Burden’ on Comelec

During the oral arguments, Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, representing the Comelec, told the SC that the requirement for voting receipts would impose a "substantial unanticipated burden" on the poll body as well as on teachers manning the polling precincts.

Hilbay said that while printing receipts would result in a "marginal" improvement, it would still be burdensome and make the elections vulnerable to cheating.

Pressed by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, Comelec chairman Andres Bautista said the poll body will do its best to make credible elections on May 9 even if it will be required to activate the VVPAT feature of the vote counting machines.

During interpellations, Comelec commissioner Christian Robert Lim said the Comelec would be needing two additional weeks to re-configure the source code for the activation of the VVPAT.

THE NEED TO TOUCH SOURCE CODES

Leonen, in interpellating Lim, said: "If we wanted all the features in the receipt, then we will have to touch the source code. That significantly increases the time necessary for the preparations."

"With touching the source code your timeline is May 23?" asked Leonen, to which Lim said, "Yes, your honor."

"I would suppose without touching the source code, we can have elections on May 9," said Lim.

"Without touching the source code, it is possible to enable it to print out a receipt that does not the features that you mentioned like ballot number, precinct number, the hash code," said Leonen, as Lim agreed.

A hash code is a human-readable instruction that is converted to binary codes, the universal language of machines, according to Lim.

AUTOMATIC CUTTERS

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno asked Comelec chief Bautista if automatic cutters can be installed into the VCMs before May 9 to avoid yanking and paper jam.

Marlon Garcia, Smartmatic project manager, said more time is needed to manufacture the cutters and make changes on the source code.

Bautista said the VCMs currently have cutters, but what is needed is a heavy-duty cutter.

Poll watchdog welcomes SC decision

Kontra Daya, a poll watchdog group, on Thursday welcomed the high court's denial of the Comelec's motion for reconsideration.

"It is our hope that Comelec will now undertake all necessary efforts to implement this provision of the law," the group said in a statement sent to the media.

The group also urged the public to vigilant.

"The vote receipt is just one of the safeguards watchdog groups have long advocated. It is still important that the counting of votes will be accurate, that the canvassing would not be vulnerable to rigging. Without a genuine source code review and a review of the canvassing systems, the credibility of the polls will be in doubt," it said.

Kontra Daya also asked for another round of mock elections by Comelec, this time generating the required receipts "and with the inclusion of transmission and canvassing in the tests."

"From the latest debacles we've seen, we will continue to press for the scrapping of a foreign-controlled (Smartmatic) poll system for future elections," it added. —KBK/KG/JST, GMA News

-----------------------------------------

RELATED FROM RAPPLER.COM

EXPLAINER: Why it's alright not to have voting receipts Emil Marañon III Published 3:00 PM, February 29, 2016 Updated 12:36 PM, March 01, 2016


File photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

The 'paper audit trail’ required by law does not have to be a receipt; it can be the ballot itself, depending on the voting technology chosen by Comelec during a particular election

Last February 22, Richard Gordon, a returning senatorial candidate, filed a Petition for Mandamus before the Supreme Court. He seeks to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to activate the Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) feature of the vote-counting machines (VCM) that will be used in the May 9, 2016, elections.

The activation of the VVPAT will enable the machines to issue “voting receipts.” Gordon reasoned that this is a “critical and indispensable” security feature of voting machines as it serves as a “physical record” of the voter’s choices.

The VVPAT is one of the 15 requirements comprising the so-called “Minimum System Capabilities” set in Section 6 of Republic Act Number 8436, as amended by Section 7 of Republic Act Number 9369. These minimum features or functional capabilities serve as Comelec’s indispensable criteria in choosing the appropriate election technology.

The purpose of the VVPAT is to secure that there is a “paper trail” in cases that there are questions regarding the accuracy and the integrity of the automated count.

The present controversy arose from Comelec’s decision not to issue “voting receipts” on the upcoming 2016 elections.

Gordon claims that it is in breach of the VVPAT requirement. Maintaining its stand during the 2010 and 2013 elections, Comelec reasoned that the physical ballots themselves already satisfy the VVPAT requirement, and that the voting receipts would only facilitate vote buying.


GORDON

While Gordon is correct that VVPAT is indeed mandatory, he is wrong in assuming that the only acceptable VVPAT under RA 9369 is a physical voting receipt.

The law, which he claims he wrote, only says that the machine should be capable of providing a “voter verified paper audit trail.”

As to the nature and kind of paper trail, I have to disagree with the former senator’s narrow view that it has be a “voting receipt” all the time.

It must be noted that the law itself gives Comelec the discretion to pick the election system and, specifically, the type of machine to be used. Necessarily, the kind of paper audit trail has to depend on whatever technology is chosen by Comelec.

HOW IT WORKS. The Board of Election Inspectors shows representatives of election watchdogs how the votes are transmitted from the precinct-based machines during the mock elections in Bagong Pag-asa Elementary School in Quezon City.

HOW IT WORKS. The Board of Election Inspectors shows representatives of election watchdogs how the votes are transmitted from the precinct-based machines during the mock elections in Bagong Pag-asa Elementary School in Quezon City. File photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

I could have agreed with Gordon on the indispensability of voting receipts had Comelec adopted a “direct-recording electronic”or DRE technology. Under such paperless set-up, the voter inputs his votes directly on the voting machine by the use of a touchscreen, touchpad, or keypad. There is no ballot under that set-up, and to provide an auditable paper trail, the DRE voting machine has to generate voting receipts.

Comelec, however, has long been avoiding the use of DREs, preferring instead the use of “optical mark readers” or OMR (previously called PCOS, now VCM).

OMRs are capable of capturing human-marked data from physical ballots filled out by voters.

Contrary to the impression of many, the casting of votes remained manual in the Philippines, in such a way that voters are still given physical ballots, where they manually mark the ovals corresponding to their choices.

What has actually been automated are only the: precinct counting, the transmission, and the consolidation of results in the municipal level and upwards.

In this case, the very physical ballots obviously are the auditable paper trail, which could qualify as VVPAT required by Republic Act Number 9369.

In fact, they are the ones used in the mandatory “random manual audit” conducted to survey the accurateness of the count. Furthermore, any candidate not satisfied with the result can also file an election protest and opt for the recounting of the ballots and compare its results with the machine count. In addition to that, Smartmatic’s OMR is also capable of scanning all ballots fed into it and storing them as an additional paper trail, although digital.

CRITICS ARGUMENTS

In other words, what candidate Gordon asks for is a redundancy, for Comelec to spend taxpayers’ money for a feature already satisfied by the physical ballots.

Critics' argument that the voting receipt would afford the voter the opportunity to verify if the votes recorded by the machine were the same ones he cast does not hold water.

Even in a manual election, once the ballots are commingled, voters also have no assurance that their ballots will be counted by the Board of Election Inspectors at the end of the day.

This uncertainty is but a necessary consequence of the secrecy in democratic balloting.

This is mandated no less by Article V, Section 2, of the 1987 Constitution and even by Article 25 (b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Philippines is a signatory. While antithetical to the notion of transparency, this uncertainty is mitigated by an established system of post-election recount, where dissatisfied candidates can always seek for a manual post-election recount of ballots.

The other argument against voting receipts is that these can be used in vote buying and selling.

Those pieces of paper will only clear the last hurdle to vote buying – that is, the lack of effective means to ascertain if the voter who was paid actually voted for the candidate who bought his vote.

Lastly, it is very important to note that the issue of whether Smartmatic’s OMR complied with the “Minimum System Capabilities” set by RA 9369, including its compliance with the “voter verified paper audit trail” requirement, has been elevated so many times to the Supreme Court, and each time it is rejected.

In the two most important cases, the Roque vs Comelec (GR Number 188456, September 10, 2009) and Capalla vs Comelec (GR Number 201112, June 13, 2012) the Supreme Court ruled that the Smartmatic PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines (which are now called VCM) are compliant with the “Minimum System Capabilities” set by RA 9369.

Whether former Gordon filed this case to pursue a personal advocacy or to gain free publicity, it does not help raise the confidence of the people in our electoral system and in the Comelec.

Apart from that, I am curious: should Gordon get re-elected through an automated election system – which he has been maligning for being illegal, fraudulent, and untrustworthy – will he nevertheless assume office? – Rappler. com


Emil Marañon III is an election lawyer who served as chief of staff of recently retired Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. He is currently studying Human Rights, Conflict and Justice at SOAS, University of London, as a Chevening scholar.

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ALSO FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Supreme Court orders Comelec to enable printing of ballot receipts by MB Online March 8, 2016 (updated) Share47 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share98

Supreme Court has ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to enable the printing of ballot receipts for the May 2016 elections.

SC spokesman Theodore Te, in a press conference on March 9, 2016, said the high court made the decision in an en banc session.

On Friday, Comelec announced its decision not to activate the voter receipt feature of the VCM for the May 2016 elections.

“After due deliberation and consultation regarding its advantages and disadvantages, as well as risks and benefits, the Comelec resolves not to use the voting receipt of the VCMs for the May 9 national and local elections,” read Minute Resolution 16-0057.

“The removal of the voting receipt from the polling place is not punishable as an election office under existing laws and the legal framework to prevent the use of the voting receipt as a tool for vote buying still needs to be crafted. As such, members of the Board of Election Inspectors will be unable to legally prevent anyone determined to take the document out of the polling place,” it further read.

Among the disadvantages cited by the poll body include the need to change the paper rolls of the VCMs during voting hours, its potential to be used as a tool for vote-buying, cause longer queues, and the need to add a total of two hours and 10 minutes in the total voting process.

Instead, the en banc decided to enable the onscreen verification feature of the VCM.

The onscreen verification functionality allows the voter “to verify the accuracy of the VCM’s interpretation of the ballot before the latter is dropped into the ballot box.”


GMA NEWS ONLINE

100,000 pairs of scissors to avoid delays in May elections Published March 19, 2016 9:49am By ROSE-AN JESSICA DIOQUINO, GMA News


The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is hoping 100,000 pairs of scissors would prevent delays in the May 9.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said scissors may help the poll body solve the possibility of frequent paper jams as the vote-counting machines (VCMs) print vote receipts on election day.

"Naghahanap tayo ng mga paraan kung papaanong mababawasan, mami-mitigate ang mga risk na ito. So ilan sa mga ginawa namin, ito nga, sa paper jam, nagsimula na rin kami ng bidding para sa gunting," Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista announced Friday.

The announcement came a day after the Supreme Court junked the poll body's petition against its earlier order to enable the VCMs' feature to vote receipts.

SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman Theodore Te said the magistrated voted unanimously to junk the petition.

The poll body had said that the VCMs may frequently experience paper jams because its built-in cutters are not heavy duty and voters may not know how to properly rip off vote receipts.

Bautista said that the scissors should be priced at P12 each, a total of P1.2 million for 100,000 pairs.

He also announced that the poll body is bidding out a supply contract for 92,509 plastic receptacles, each priced at P300 or a total of P27,752,700.

After reviewing the vote receipts, the voters will be asked to drop these to the receptacles before leaving the polling places.

"Meron nang prototype na ipinakita sa atin. Mag-uumpisa na rin ang bidding diyan," Bautista said.

The receptacles' prototypes are white boxes that bear the Comelec's logo.

READ MORE...

There are suggestions for the Comelec to use the old yellow ballot boxes, but its officials said they cannot use these because they contain old ballots and other documents that cannot be removed.

The poll body has also begun calling out for bids for at least 1.1 million rolls of thermal paper for the vote receipts.

Bautista said they require that the paper to turn red when the roll is about to run out.

"Ang pinahabol [na requirement] ay dapat sa bandang dulo, nagiging red na para alam ng BEI (Board of Election Inspector) na nauubos na 'yung papel, para hindi na hihintaying maubos. Dapat palitan na niya para mabawasan ang issue ng paper jam," he said.

He said each roll should be able to print 60 receipts. —ALG, GMA News


PHILSTAR

Launder raps filed vs RCBC exec By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 16, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. president and CEO Lorenzo Tan attends a Senate hearing yesterday on the $81 million stolen by hackers from the Bank of Bangladesh. He denied involvement and invoked bank secrecy laws. At right, Maia Santos-Deguito, RCBC branch manager, takes her oath before the hearing, during which she kept mum, invoking her right against self-incrimination. GEREMY PINTOLO

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to investigate the money laundering complaint filed against a branch manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) last week.

Prosecutor General Claro Arellano told reporters the AMLC complaint has been assigned to Assistant State Prosecutor Gilmarie Fe Pacamarra for preliminary investigation to determine whether there is probable cause to warrant the filing of criminal charges of money laundering under Section 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in court against Maia Santos-Deguito.

Arellano, chief of the DOJ’s prosecutorial arm, said the handling prosecutor would issue a subpoena on Deguito and other respondents in the complaint as well as set hearings.

In its nine-page complaint, AMLC deputy director Vencent Salido sought the indictment of Deguito and four other respondents – Michael Francisco Cruz, Jessie Christopher Lagrosas, Alfred Santos Vergara and Enrico Teodoro Vasquez, the supposed owners of the bank accounts where $80,884,641.63 stolen by hackers from the Bank of Bangladesh were reportedly wired.

The council included the four individuals in the complaint despite an initial finding that the names might be fictitious.

Filipino-Chinese businessman William Go, to whom the amount was reportedly transferred before the money was laundered in local casinos, was not among the respondents.

READ MORE...

The AMLC said Deguito, manager of RCBC’s branch on Jupiter Street in Makati City, approved the opening of the subject bank accounts on May 15, 2015 based on fictitious identity documents.

The names, it bared, did not belong to the four unidentified persons who appeared in the bank for the opening of the fake accounts.

The council alleged the branch manager facilitated money laundering when she “allowed the opening of the subject bank accounts on 15 May 2015 based on identity documents that were verified to be fictitious.”

“Moreover, verification on the employment offices declared by the four during the account opening revealed that there were no ‘Cruz’ et al that were connected therewith,” read the complaint.

The AMLC said that aside from the fact that Deguito failed to perform her responsibility of verifying the identities of the four depositors within nine months from the time the accounts were opened, she allowed them to withdraw the money stolen from Bangladesh Bank.

Deguito has already denied the allegation in the complaint.

She was prevented from leaving the country last week on the strength of a DOJ lookout bulletin order.

She has also denied approaching Go or offering him P10 million in exchange for keeping his silence.

PNP offers help to NBI

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police said it is ready to assist the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in probing cybercrimes including money laundering.

Sr. Supt. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, PNP-Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) director, gave the commitment yesterday in reaction to the Senate’s launching an investigation into the suspicious withdrawal of $80 million from RCBC.

“That matter is now being investigated by the Anti-Money Laundering Council with the National Bureau of Investigation handling the case but if asked, the PNP-ACG is willing to assist in the ongoing probe,” Eleazar said.

The PNP-ACG is strengthening its anti-cybercrime capabilities as cases of online criminal activites like fraud and theft mount.

Cybercrimes handled by the PNP-ACG include online libel, online threat, identity theft, hacking, child pornography, child abuse, ATM/credit card fraud, e-mail phishing, online piracy and illegal recruitment, among others.

Eleazer noted cyrbercrimes handled by the PNP-ACG rose from 150 in 2013 to 544 in 2014.

“We recognize the efforts of our personnel and the contributions of our stakeholders in accomplishing our mission,” he said.

He pointed out that cyberspace has given criminals a global stomping ground where they can pursue their nefarious activities in relative anonymity.

“We need to create awareness among cyberspace stakeholders on the adverse economic effects of cybercrime and, more importantly, on how they can protect themselves from this growing menace,” Eleazar said.

The PNP-ACG is discussing ways to expand the involvement of the community, other law enforcement agencies, the information technology sector, the media and legal practitioners in fighting cybercrime. – Jaime Laude


INQUIRER

SENATE MEETING to hear Deguito’s testimony SHARES: 752 VIEW COMMENTS By: Maila Ager @MAgerINQ INQUIRER.net 04:21 PM March 17th, 2016


Maia S. Deguito, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) branch manager. PHILSTAR PHOTO

Senators held a closed-door meeting on Thursday to hear the testimony of Maia Santos-Deguito, branch manager of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), who is at the center of the alleged $81 million money laundering scheme.

Deguito has been requesting the Senate blue ribbon committee to hear her testimony in an executive session, citing the case that has already been filed against her in connection with her alleged involvement in the scheme.

The committee finally acceded to the request of Deguito after Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile moved to cite the branch manager in contempt for refusing to answer his question whether or not there was a threat to her life after she was embroiled in the controversy.

This was after Romualdo Agarrado, former customers service head of the branch, earlier quoted Deguito as saying that “I’d rather do this than me being killed or my family.”

READ: P20 million cash loaded to RCBC branch head’s vehicle—witness

Agarrado said Deguito made the remark in front of him and assistant branch manager Angela Torres in the morning of February 9.

However, Deguito denied making such statement, saying she was willing to tell all in an executive session.

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“Hindi po totoo yung sinabi nya na may ganoon (akong) sinabi. Ipapaliwanag ko na lang po nang buo lahat sa executive session pero wala po akong sinabi na ganun,” she said.

(It is not true that I said that. I will explain the whole matter in an executive session but I did not say that.)

“Magsalita ka ng katotohanan dito kung hindi (Tell the truth or) I’ll make a motion to hold you in contempt,” an irate Enrile said.

“Hindi naman po akong tumatangging sumagot, humihingi lang po ako ng executive session,” Deguito said.

(I am not refusing to answer, I am just asking for an executive session [to answer these questions].)

“Hindi pwedeng executive session, hindi mo sasabihin sa amin kung ano ang gusto mo. Nanumpa ka dito na magsabi ka ng katotohanan (We cannot resort to an executive session, you cannot just tell us what you want. You have sworn to tell the truth). Mr. Chair, you better warn this witness, otherwise, I will make a motion to hold her in contempt and we will detain her here,” said the senator.

However, Deguito again invoked her right against self-incrimination and appealed for consideration from the senators.

READ: RCBC branch manager invokes right vs self-incrimination at Senate probe

“Patas lang dito, ikaw ang pinangalingan nitong gulo na ito. Ikaw ang nakakaalam lahat nito, bakit hihingi ka ng executive session…? Sabihin mo muna sa amin ang dahilan bakit gusto mo ng executive session? Natatakot ka ba? Tinatakot ka ba? O meron bang makakasunog sa banking system natin?” Enrile said.

(We are just being fair, you are the source of this mess. You are privy to this matter, so why would you ask for an executive session? Tell us first why you would opt for an executive session. Are you afraid? Are they scaring you? Or would anyone or anything destroy our banking system?)

And when the branch manager tried to reason out again, the senator said: “Mr. Chair, I don’t want to argue with the witness. I’m making a motion to hold this witness in contempt.”

The committee suspended the proceeding and when it resumed, its members agreed to hear Deguito’s testimony in a closed-door meeting. RAM

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

AMLC seeks FBI help on $81-M cyber heist By Lawrence Agcaoili and Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 16, 2016 - 12:00am 5 162 googleplus0 0


Philippine Central Bank officials, from left, Julia Bacay-Abad, Manuel Huberto Gaite, Nestor Espenilla and Emmanuel Dooc, take their oaths prior to the start of the Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe into how about $81 million of Bangladesh's stolen funds were transmitted online to four private accounts at a branch of the RCBC Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines – The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) is seeking the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in unmasking the persons behind the laundering of $81 million allegedly stolen by Chinese hackers from the account of the Bangladesh Bank in the US Federal Reserve Bank.

Julia Bacay-Abad, executive director of AMLC, admitted making the request at a hearing yesterday on the issue by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

“I was the one who requested assistance from the FBI,” Abad said in a reply to a query from Sen. Ralph Recto.

She also pointed out the AMLC has also sought the assistance of its counterpart in Hong Kong to check on the $20 million transferred to Hong Kong.

Abad told the committee investigations into the matter started when the head of the Bangladesh Bank wrote a letter to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. last Feb. 11 seeking help in the recovery of $100 million stolen from its account in the US Federal Reserve.

The request involved $81 million deposited in the accounts of Michael Francisco Cruz, Enrico Teodoro Vasquez, Alfred Santos Vergara and Jessie Christopher Lagrosas in the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC).

Abad explained the accounts were opened with only $500 deposit on May 15 last year. The accounts were inactive until Feb. 5 to Feb. 9, during which $30.28 million was deposited in Lagrosas’ account, $25.1 million in Vasquez’s account, $19.99 million in Vergara’s and $6.29 million in Cruz’s.

Of the amount deposited in the account of Lagrosas, Abad said $22.73 million was withdrawn and deposited in an account businessman William So Go opened just last Feb. 1.

On the other hand, the rest of the amount was converted by PhilRem from US dollars to pesos and delivered to Weikang Xu, Eastern Hawaii Leisure Co. and Solaire Resorts owned by Bloomberry Hotels Inc.

Upon receiving the request of Bangladesh Bank, Abad said AMLC immediately got in touch with RCBC and started conducting an initial investigation.

READ MORE...

She admitted that AMLC was only able to file a petition to freeze the concerned accounts last Feb. 29 and got an approval on March 1.

“We are completing our investigation into the matter. We are doing our best to find out the truth and bring justice to where it is due,” she added.

Denial


PHOTO LORENZO TAN: RCBC prexy denies hand in $100-M money laundering scandal, By Rosette Adel (philstar.com) | Updated March 15, 2016 - 6:32pm --Lorenzo Tan, center, President of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), testifies before Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe into how about $81 million of Bangladesh's stolen funds were transmitted online to four private accounts at a branch of the RCBC Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. AP/Bullit Marquez PHILSTAR HEADLINE NEWS MARCH 15, 2016

For his part, RCBC president and chief executive officer Lorenzo Tan vehemently denied any involvement in the irregularity and vowed to cooperate with legislators.

“We vehemently deny and disavow any and all knowledge, complicity or participation in the alleged money laundering of $100 million in the Philippines,” Tan told the committee chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III.

According to Tan, RCBC has put in place systems, measures and policies that ensure compliance with prevailing laws and with applicable rules and regulations of the BSP.

He said the bank has a board-approved and updated Money Laundering Prevention Program Manual, as well as a department dedicated to anti-money laundering matters and an anti-money laundering committee composed of senior group and committee heads.

Tan explained the bank is conducting its own investigation into the alleged money-laundering scheme.

Tan also denied the accusations made by RCBC Jupiter branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito that the questionable transactions facilitated by her branch had his approval.

“These allegations are baseless and malicious,” he said.

“More importantly, I have no personal knowledge of, much less personal participation in, any of the transactions that are subject to this inquiry,” he said.

He explained RCBC processes in excess of two million transactions worth P1 trillion per month.

“These transactions are not known to me, and these do not and would not have had to be approved by me, even as CEO and president, because to impose such a requirement would slow down the process that needs to be expeditious and efficient,” Tan said.

Tan on Monday night urged fellow bankers to be more vigilant against system and institutional risks as he turned over the presidency of the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) to his elder brother BDO president Nestor Tan.

For her part, Deguito who is represented by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, refused to answer any question as she invoked her right against self-incrimination as a case has been filed against her before the Department of Justice.

In yesterday’s hearing, Tan did not go into details as he invoked the Bank Secrecy Law.

“I cannot talk specifically about this case because of bank secrecy, but I assure you that an investigation is going on in our bank to determine the actual facts that happened,” Tan said when asked by Guingona if there was a failure in the procedure of verifying the identities of the account owners.

Tan also refused to speak about a stop transfer order allegedly issued last Feb. 8, which was Chinese New Year.

“I cannot confirm or deny this request specific to this transaction, but as a general rule, when there is a freeze order on an account, the branch manager involved should comply with such order,” the RCBC president added.

A visibly irked Guingona said Tan could not invoke the Bank Secrecy Law as the money was owned by Bangladesh Bank.

The senator said that at the time the request was made, $58 million was still in the accounts held by RCBC and would have been retained had the bank immediately acted on the request.

“The one that can invoke secrecy is the owner of the funds. The owner of the funds is the central bank of Bangladesh, and they’re here precisely to ask us to help them recover the funds. They are not invoking secrecy,” the senator said.

The Bangladesh ambassador was present during the hearing.


Bangladeshi envoy finds PHL banking system flawed --The government of Bangladesh's sees flaws in the Philippines banking system and gaming sector that makes the laundering of millions of dollars in stolen money possible, Bangladeshi Ambassador John Gomes told GMA News on Wednesday. gmanetwork.com (Date:03/16/2016 12:41) Read full article >>

Furthermore, RCBC’s anti-money laundering head Laurinda Rogero also invoked bank secrecy when asked by Sen. Sergio Osmeña III about the time the bank received the stop payment order.

She pointed out she could not speak about the specific incident because it has yet to be confirmed if the funds in question were indeed stolen.

But Guingona said the “account holders have been proven to be fake.” Another hearing has been set for tomorrow.

Go, for his part, denied that he was the owner of the account in his name, saying it was Deguito who used his name and forged his signature.

A review by RCBC of the CCTV footage in the Jupiter branch on Feb. 1, or the date Go supposedly opened the account, showed no evidence of the businessman’s presence in the bank at the time.

Go said he came to know Deguito when she was still the branch manager of East West Bank in Fort Bonifacio where he has an account.

He recalled that Deguito’s replacement at the East West Bank branch arranged for a meeting with her.

In the meeting, Go claimed being offered P200 million and was told a vague story about Deguito running into some trouble in her current job at RCBC.

It was during the meeting that Deguito reportedly admitted involvement in the transfer of money from overseas and the use of his name in her branch.

Go said he made clear to Dequito that he wanted no part in the scheme.

Tan denied recruiting Dequito to RCBC.

Philrem president Salud Bautista, during the meeting, admitted facilitating the transfer of funds from RCBC to Weikang Xu, Solaire and Hawaii Leisure on Deguito’s instruction.

She declined to provide details about the transactions, citing provisions of the AMLA.

Meanwhile, Valenzuela Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian said he would propose amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to include casinos among covered institutions, saying their inclusion “is long overdue.”


GMA NEWS NETWORK

RCBC PROBE SHOWS Deguito drove off with P20M after forging Go's signature Published March 17, 2016 3:08pm Updated March 17, 2016 6:16pm By VIRGIL LOPEZ, GMA News

The internal probe by the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) into the alleged $81-million money laundering case found that Jupiter branch manager Maia Deguito (photo) not only set up bogus bank accounts under the name of businessman William Go.

According to Attorney Macel Fernandez-Estavillo, head of the RCBC's Legal and Regulatory Affairs Group, Deguito also forged Go's signature in withdrawal slips to drive away with P20 million taken from a questionable peso account.

Estavillo made the remarks before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and on the strength of a waiver issued by Go regarding his supposed bank accounts with the RCBC branch on Jupiter Street, Makati.

Go earlier denied owning the bank accounts, saying Deguito had told him that it was she who opened them.

"On February 5, substantial amount of funds entered Mr. William Go's account, $22.7 million entered his account. Between 6 to 7 o'clock in the afternoon, P20 million cash was withdrawn from his peso account," she said.

Estavillo said Jupiter branch senior customer relationship officer, Angela Torres, told bank investigators that the funds were placed in Go's Lexus SUV somewhere in Burgos Circle, Taguig City.

She added that Go supposedly was also asked sign the withdrawal slips somewhere in the area.

"We have done independent verification and the addresses (of Mr. Go) are false (in the dollar and peso accounts). We did an internal verification and the signatures of his peso and dollar accounts do not seem to match his signatures in his other account in our Trinoma branch (Quezon City)," Estavillo said.

"With a high degree of certainty, the questioned signatures allegedly signed by one Mr. William S. Go were not signed by one and the same person and was therefore a result of simulated forgery," she added, reading the certification of the verifyer.

READ MORE...

Estavillo said RCBC is planning to file perjury charges against Torres for falsely claiming that Go, a "valued client" of the bank, accepted the P20 million cash.

A former customer service head of Jupiter branch disclosed that it was Deguito who took the cash, which was placed in her car and "drove off with it," Estavillo said.

The former customer service head, Romualdo Agarado, testified on his claim during the hearing.

Agarado said the withdrawal slip containing Go and Deguito's signatures was given to Torres, who then contacted the cash center.

An armored car carrying the cash arrived at the bank around 5:30 p.m. February 5. He said the teller counted the money before it was brought to the office of Deguito.

Later, Agarado said he personally saw the cash placed in a paper bag being loaded into Deguito's vehicle.

He said it was Jovy Morales, the bank messenger, and Torres, who loaded the money into Deguito's car.

"Kitang-kita ko po kasi nakaupo po ako sa table ko fronting the main door of the branch. Glass lang po siya so kitang-kita sa labas even thought it's 6:30 or quarter to 7 (p.m.) already. Yung ilaw po ay maliwanag sa loob ng branch. Personally, nakita ko," Agarado said. —NB/VS, GMA News

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

FORMER Officer of RCBC: Deguito offered me P5-M bribe SHARES: 3 VIEW COMMENTS
By: Christine O. Avendaño @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:42 AM March 18th, 2016


AFTER CLOSED-DOOR SESSION Maia Santos-Deguito, RCBC Jupiter branch manager, and her lawyer emerge from the executive session of the Senate blue ribbon committee, which is looking into the laundering of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

A former officer of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) branch on Jupiter Street in Makati City Thursday said he was offered by the branch manager, Maia Deguito, P5 million apparently in exchange for his silence on the withdrawal from the branch of the $81 million stolen from Bangladesh’s central bank.

 
AGARRADO QUESTIONED BY SENATOR GUINGONA AND SENATOR SOTTO

Romualdo Agarrado, formerly a customer service head of RCBC’s Jupiter business center and now a reserve officer at the Manila office, testified at the Senate blue ribbon committee that Deguito made the “offer” at the Forbes Park home of another bank officer on Feb. 12.

The offer was made apparently after Agarrado witnessed P20 million in cash withdrawn from the supposed bank account of William Go—one of five bank accounts where the stolen $81 million was deposited—being loaded into the car of Deguito and her leaving the bank with the money.

Agarrado’s testimony further pinned down Deguito for her involvement in the money-laundering scam. RCBC officials are accusing the branch manager of being behind the facilitation of the withdrawals of the stolen money.

Deguito declined to answer queries of senators on Agarrado’s testimony but repeatedly said she would talk freely in a closed-door session.

But the branch manager denied her life was threatened as Agarrado had testified.

Deguito’s insistence on an executive session prompted Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile to threaten her to be cited for contempt.

In the end though, senators agreed to go on executive session and at press time were talking with Deguito and allowed the Bangladesh ambassador, Maj. Gen. John Gomes, to be present as an observer.

Offer recounted

Agarrado, in his Senate testimony, recounted how the P5-million offer was made to him by Deguito.

He said he helped count the P20 million cash order made by Angela Torres, Deguito’s aide, on Feb. 5. The money was withdrawn from the account of William Go, who later accused Deguito of opening the account without his knowledge and consent.

The money was placed in a box and brought to the room of Deguito, who at the time was talking to someone on the phone, Agarrado said.

He said he saw the P20 million being loaded by a bank messenger, Jovie Morales, into the car of Deguito.

“I clearly saw it because I was sitting in front of the glass main door,” Agarrado said, of the money being loaded into the branch manager’s car.

Recall order

On Feb. 11, he said there were recall orders for funds sent to the branch by the head office and he informed Deguito about this. But the branch manager just “stared blankly” at him, Agarrado said.

Later on, Agarrado said Deguito called him and Torres, and told them she had to process the transaction.

Don’t tell auditors

“I would rather do this than me being killed and my family,” he quoted Deguito as telling them.

At the time, Agarrado said he became scared.

On Feb. 11, internal auditors of the bank went to the branch to question its personnel and before he was interviewed, Agarrado said he had the chance to talk to Torres.

He told Torres he saw the P20 million loaded into Deguito’s car but the latter told him not to tell the auditors or Deguito would be in trouble.

“Thus, I no longer brought this matter up when I was being interviewed by the internal auditors,” Agarrado said in his affidavit which the RCBC submitted to the Senate blue ribbon committee.

Later that night, he said he was invited by a reserve officer, Adrian Yujuico, and other colleagues to the latter’s home at Forbes Park in Makati for dinner and was surprised to find out that Deguito was also there.

Agarrado recalled that Deguito told the group that she had four lawyers, one of them an “expert” on the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

P5M for retirement

“Branch manager Maia told me that her lawyer was asking how much my retirement benefits would be, and she said that I should compute the same. She then asked me, ‘Kasya na ba sa yo ang five million pesos?’ [Is P5 million enough for you?] Agarrado said in his affidavit and which he repeated in his Senate testimony.

He said Morales, the bank messenger who was with them at the dinner, tapped his shoulder and say the P5 million was “OK.”

In his testimony, Agarrado said he was surprised by the offer and was confused about it. He said he later realized the big picture.

The last time he communicated with Deguito was on March 5 when he texted her to tell the truth. She replied by saying she was not hiding and she was telling the truth.

On questioning, Agarrado said Torres, Deguito and Yujuico were friends and were coemployees at East West Bank.

Senators asked for the submission of the other affidavits of other RCBC employees but Macel Fernandez-Estavillo, the lawyer for RCBC, said the bank considered the affidavit of Torres “perjured.”

Estavillo said Torres had claimed that she loaded the money into Go’s car and she made him sign a withdrawal slip.

“But the guard log does not support her affidavit and Agarrado’s affidavit contradicted her affidavit, and evidence shows her affidavit is false,” Estavillo told senators.

She said the bank would file a perjury case against Torres.

For her part, Deguito dodged the questions of senators as she said wished to talk to them privately.


INQUIRER

Philrem to return P10M to Bangladesh SHARES: 10 VIEW COMMENTS By: Christine O. Avendaño and Niña P. Calleja, Daxim L. Lucas @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:31 AM March 18th, 2016


IN THE HOT SEAT Salud Bautista, president of Philrem remittance company, responds to questions during the Senate hearing on Thursday. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

The foreign exchange remittance company that converted into pesos the $81 million stolen from the Bangladesh central bank Thursday apologized to the ambassador of the impoverished South Asian nation and offered to return all proceeds it made from the transaction.

Speaking before the Senate blue ribbon committee, Philrem Services Inc. president Salud Bautista said her firm would issue a check in the name of the government of Bangladesh representing her company’s earnings from the deal.

“We are sorry,” Bautista said, adding Philrem did not know the funds were stolen from Bangladesh.

She said the firm would immediately write a check for P10,474,654 and turn it over to Bangladeshi representatives.

Earlier during the Senate hearing, Maia Deguito, branch manager of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) which is at the center of the money-laundering scandal, said Kim Wong had referred to her the supposed holders of the four fictitious accounts, who received part of the money stolen from Bangladesh Bank.

Deguito also linked RCBC president/CEO Lorenzo Tan to Wong.

Wong is among those being investigated by the Senate in the laundering of $81 million but he skipped the hearing because his lawyer said he had been out of the country since March 4 for medical treatment.

‘Referred accounts’

After she testified in a closed-door session, Deguito answered some of the questions from senators during the resumption of the public hearing.

Asked by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile how the four bank accounts were created at the RCBC branch on Jupiter Street in Makati City, Dequito said the four were “referred accounts.”

She described Wong as a friend of Tan.

READ MORE...

Deguito said she has known Wong for six years now, having met him when she was then working with Export Bank in 2009 “through client friends.”

Deguito’s backer

“He (Wong) wanted to help me in the marketing budget for the bank,” she said in reply to the question why Wong referred the account holders to him.

Deguito said she met Wong through “common client friends” and identified Jason Go as one of them.

Tan said Wong was buying cars from Go, the car dealer who earlier was identified at the hearing as the one who recommended Deguito to RCBC.

RCBC lawyer Macel Fernandez-Estavillo said Go was a “valued client of the bank.”

“I met Wong through Jason Go. Jason Go has been helping me in getting clients for whatever bank I am assigned,” Deguito said.

Go was Deguito’s client in Export Bank.

Deguito said Wong became a client of hers when she was working for East West Bank.

Asked about his association with Wong after Deguito claimed that the RCBC president was a friend of Wong, Tan said Deguito “seems to know him better.”

“I have no business (with him),” Tan said, noting that he met Wong in 2002 because he was a restaurant owner. But Tan said he had not seen Wong in 12 or 14 years.

Tan repeated he also knew Go.

Thursday Club

Asked whether he was a member of the so-called Thursday Club that included Go and Wong, Tan said he was not part of the group.

On questioning by the blue ribbon committee chair, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, Deguito said she attended the birthday party of Go in the last quarter of 2014 and in attendance were Tan and Wong, among others.

“Wong and Tan walked together and Mr. Tan told me to take care of that guy (Wong),” Deguito said.

Deguito also said Tan invited her to join RCBC when she resigned from East West Bank in 2013.

Tan said he did not remember attending Go’s birthday party as Deguito had said.

“I never invited her to join (RCBC) …. She is portraying herself as someone special and that I brought her in. That did not happen,” Tan said of Deguito, this time on her claim he invited her to join the bank.

Wong to return to PH

Wong will return to the Philippines to appear before the Senate blue ribbon committee, according to his lawyer.

“In the letter, he expressed willingness to appear before the committee on March 20 onwards,” Wong’s lawyer Macel Fernandez told the committee.

Fernandez said his client, a Filipino citizen, would address the allegations against him when he appears before the committee.

Wong left the country on March 4 to undergo a medical treatment in Singapore, his lawyer said.

Guingona set the next hearing on March 29 at 1:30 p.m.

Asked if Wong would be available at such time, Fernandez said: “He will be available but it depends on the outcome of the medical treatment.”

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Bangladesh rejects P10M return offer by remitting firm by Mario Casayuran March 18, 2016 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share


Salud Bautista, head of a remittance company Philrem, testifies before Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe into how about $81 million of Bangladesh's stolen funds were transmitted online to four private accounts at a branch of the RCBC Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in Manila, Philippines.(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

The Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines rejected an offer of a remittance company to return P10 million from its profits as an apology over the hacked $81 million.

The offer was made by Salud Bautista, president of PhilRem Service Corporation, during the seven-hour public hearing by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on the money laundering issue involving the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation.

Bautista formally made the return offer to Retired Maj. Gen. John Gomes after the public hearing but Gomes stressed that since the money was hacked in New York, there would be international jurisdictions involved.

Thus, Gomes said, he could not accept the money, saying he is just an ambassador that he has to report back to his government.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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