Press Release
April 7, 2016


Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero said the report on the "Panama Papers' tackling leaked documents on the vast amount of wealth stashed by politicians and famous personalities, including officials from the Philippines, using offshore companies underpins the lifting of the country's bank secrecy law on bank deposits of public officials.

"The scandal surrounding the illegally amassed deposits of public officials from around the world, including some of our own public officials, kept in secret foreign accounts is a renewed reminder that we should pass a law compelling all our state workers--from the president down to the lowest clerk--to sign a waiver on their bank deposits in favor of the Ombudsman," Escudero said.

"We've been repeatedly told and warned: a public office is a public trust. Every single peso of the people's taxes should be handled with care, sincerity and honesty. Every peso paid by a taxpayer should be used to advance public good, not one's private good," explained the leading vice-presidential candidate based on all pre-election surveys.

The so-called Panama Papers details transactions by a Panamanian legal company showing an insider's view of the massive offshore wealth of prominent politicians and public figures in different parts of the world.

Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned on April 5, becoming the first casualty of the Panama Papers, so named because the documents came from a Panamanian law firm. The documents detailed paper trail and transactions of extremely rich individuals taking advantage of offshore companies to hide their wealth.

The Panama Papers gave proofs that premier's wife owned an offshore company with big claims on Iceland's banks, an undeclared conflict of interest for Gunnlaugsson. This revelation forced many citizens to call for his resignation.

Since 2010, Escudero has been submitting a written waiver on secrecy of his bank deposits attached to the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) he files annually with the Office of the Ombudsman.

The independent vice-presidential bet filed in 2013 his proposal to compel people in government, except those who serve in honorary capacity, to submit a written permission or waiver in favor of the Ombudsman to look into all deposits of whatever nature in banks within and outside the country. He first filed the measure in 2007 when he was first elected senator.

Recently, he called on all candidates to sign a waiver to assure the electorate that they won't enrich themselves once elected into office.

Republic Act No. 1405, or the Bank Secrecy Act of 1955, strictly prohibits disclosure of or inquiry into deposits with any banking institution. It also provides penalties of imprisonment or fine for offenders.

"If a Filipino politician is named in the Panama Papers, he or she should be held accountable if he or she committed any wrongdoing. Filipinos named in the Panama Papers must explain why they opted to hide behind the veneer of questionable offshore companies," Escudero said.

The Panama Papers is a collection of more than 11.5 million documents, whose leak from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca fueled outrage globally after it was revealed how a group of rich and powerful people are able to keep away from the public their wealth to avoid taxes amid the sufferings in their own countries.

The Mossack Fonseca, a company known for setting up offshore companies, flatly denied any wrongdoing in connection with the Panama Papers, labeled as "the unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world's fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca."

The documents were reportedly obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which eventually shared them with the CIJ. The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC.

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