POSTSCRIPT / February 16, 2012 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Ask prosecution, not bank, on faked docus

KEEP DISTANCE: Impeachment is a recall-like process assigned by the Constitution to the Congress. It is initiated in the House of Representatives and decided or disposed of by the Senate.

The Executive department, meaning the President and everybody around or under his office, has nothing to do with prosecuting and deciding the case. Since the Congress is not under the Executive (at least in theory), Malacañang should keep its proper distance.

If President Noynoy Aquino and his spokesmen respect the process entrusted to the Congress, they should not butt in now and then to assist the congressmen-prosecutors handling the impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

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PALACE MEDDLING: If the Palace thinks, as it seems to do, that the congressmen-prosecutors are not competent enough on their own and need help, maybe President Aquino and his boys should formally enter their appearance instead of kibitz from the sidelines.

Meddling by the Executive only confirms the fact, long observed on national TV, that the prosecution went to the impeachment court unprepared to prove the hastily-assembled charges.

The congressmen must have been hoping that Corona, after media mauling, will resign — so they do not have to present evidence to prove anything. The problem is that the beleaguered Chief Justice refuses to quit.

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COPY VS ORIG: The prosecution had presented to the impeachment court photocopies of alleged bank records of the Chief Justice. In dire need of evidence, the prosecution then asked that the originals be summoned.

Right then and there the Senate IC should have ordered the prosecution panel to produce the originals of the copies it submitted. But it did not.

But since the Philippine Savings Bank has nothing to do with the manufacture and dissemination of the alleged copies, the burden of producing the originals does not fall on the bank. It falls on the prosecution.

With PSB officials saying under oath that the purported copies submitted by the prosecution do not resemble originals in the bank, the copies are deemed fake – meaning falsified, or not faithful copies of authentic bank documents.

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COURT MISLED?: The Senate court should not have accepted the questionable copies and, compounding the error, used them to subpoena records covered by the bank secrecy law.

Whether the copies are genuine or fake, the prosecution is caught in two difficult situations:

* If the copies are FAKE or falsified, as PSB officials have averred, the prosecution must answer to the court and to the people for the forgery and their having misled everybody with spurious documents.

* If on the other hand the copies are GENUINE, the prosecution should be punished for the illegal leakage or disclosure of bank documents in violation of the bank secrecy law.

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CONSEQUENCES: Now if they are true copies of falsified or genuine bank records illegally obtained, testimony in connection with those records should be stricken off the record – and the responsible members of the prosecution panel sanctioned.

An apology from the erring prosecution members may not be extenuating. The damage has been done in open court with no less than the presiding officer Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile taken for a ride.

In explaining the dark deed, the prosecution cannot invoke their desperation to assemble evidence. Neither can they shift the blame to a fictitious “little lady.”

Enrile should not just throw the book at the prosecutors. He should hurl the gavel at them, before Sen. Miriam Santiago — her blood pressure permitting — beats him to it.

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MICROFINANCE: In a meeting with officers of the Capampangan in Media Inc. last Friday, Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas spoke glowingly of their program for microentrepreneurs in need of credit.

Tetangco said such easy loans are “empowering since microentrepreneurs without collateral gain access to credit at commercial lending rates of about 20-30 percent a year, compared to over 1,000 percent a year at the so-called ‘5-6’ rates of unlicensed lenders.

“While bank lending has been on a steady rise,” he said. “Credit delivery to the underbanked and the unbanked also deserves a serious closer look.”

He added that the BSP’s regulatory framework for the development of microfinance has been rated as the world’s best, for three years in a row. On record, 28 central banks visited last year to learn from BSP’s experience in microfinance.

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EASY TERMS: Outstanding microfinance loans now average P7 billion. Considering that the average term of microfinance loans is two months, it can be assumed that microentrepreneurs can access as much as P40 billion a year in short-term credit.

Tetangco cited inspiring success stories in microfinance, some of them households and communities transformed by successful microfinance ventures.

He said one way of expanding access to credit of viable small and medium enterprises that do not have sufficient collateral is through the Credit Surety Fund organized by the BSP and financed by local governments, the Industrial Guarantee and Loan Fund managed by the NEDA, and supported by the Development Bank of and the Land Bank.

He reported, “So far, we have created 20 Credit Surety Funds — in four cities and in 16 provinces, the latest of which was launched last January in Puerto Princesa with Mayor Hagedorn.

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ERRATUM: My Postscript last Tuesday erroneously said that Sen. Alan Cayetano was among the 13 senators who voted that the Supreme Court temporary restraining order on dollar bank accounts be respected by the IC. He actually voted against honoring it. The same column also reported that Sen. Ralph Recto was among the 10 senators who voted not to honor the TRO. Actually, he voted to respect it. I regret the mixup and apologize for it. The error resulted mainly from pressure of deadline (3 p.m.), but that is not an excuse.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 16, 2012)

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