Aquino won’t allow it, says it’s ‘shotgun’ move
The Commission on Elections stood pat Thursday on its widely criticized order to limit cash withdrawals to P100,000 a day until May 13, but gave banks the discretion to waive the limit for their regular clients.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, who announced the original order Tuesday to discourage vote buying from May 8-13, said the poll agency would issue a supplementary resolution to give bank personnel and officials the leeway to allow their known clients to withdraw more than the P100,000 limit.
The resolution would also exempt government agencies and private entities from the “money ban” on “valid and exigent grounds,” Brillantes said.
But President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday refused to concur with the money ban, describing it as a shotgun approach with unintended consequences.
Mr. Aquino said a typical fast food operation would easily transact more than P100,000 in a day and would fall within the Comelec’s money ban.
“That’s equivalent to saying let’s stop the economy for a while during the time of the ban,” Mr. Aquino added. “I have not given my concurrence.”
Aquino said that under the 1987 Constitution , the Comelec must secure his concurrence before the money limit can be enforced.
The central bank and various business groups on Wednesday attacked the Comelec resolution as being restrictive of trade and violating bank secrecy laws.
On Thursday, the Bankers Association of the Philippines challenged the Comelec order before the Supreme Court, saying it violated the constitutional rights of all depositors and the banking industry, and was issued beyond the poll body’s jurisdiction.
The revised Comelec resolution states that the poll body will exempt withdrawals “which to the determination of the bank, are routine, regular and made in the ordinary course of business of the withdrawing client,” consistent with the central bank policy that requires banks to know their clients.
“The banks already known which customers regularly withdraw P100,000 and those that don’t,” Brillantes said.
The original Comelec resolution also barred persons from carrying cash exceeding P500,000 from May 8 to 13, also to discourage vote buying.
In the wake of widespread criticism of the measure, President Benigno Aquino III ordered his Cabinet secretaries to study the wisdom of the resolution.
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.
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.
A US–based nurse, Rizzalyn Balilo, who went on vacation in the Philippines to enroll her two children, said the order of the Comelec was very untimely and insensitive. She said it was normal for parents to make such withdrawals during enrollment periods.
Senator Ralph Recto also called for the immediate shelving of the Comelec money ban, saying the resolution was “crazy and unenforceable.”
He said the Comelec was treading on unconstitutional ground by interfering with the flow of private money.
Non-cash transactions are not covered by the resolution.
The resolution stated that “all existing Comelec checkpoints nationwide are directed to conduct a 24-hour money ban checkpoint, in addition to the gun ban for the duration of the period.”
The poll body on Thursday emphasized that the checkpoint order remained in effect, and that searches could be conducted even without a warrant, if the cash exceeding the P500,000 limit was in plain view or if the vehicle’s occupant appeared “nervous or suspicious.”
The poll body also gives the checkpoint officer conducting the search leeway in determining if there is a reasonable or probable cause to believe that the occupant of the vehicle is a criminal.
Brillantes seemed uncertain, however, what charges would be filed against violators of his money ban.
Vote buying is an election offense punishable by one to six years in jail, removal of the right to vote and disqualification from running for public office, but the Comelec has yet to prosecute a single candidate on the charge.
In its petition against the Comelec, the BAP said the poll agency committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it issued the money ban.
The bankers urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Comelec decision and to issue a temporary restraining order to immediately stop its implementation.
De Lima urged the Comelec to withdraw its order or to make amendments to it. She added that time was running out because all poll regulations must be disseminated before they can be implemented. With Joyce Pangco Pańares and Julito Rada