EDITORIAL: Easing up on bank secrecy

There is the likelihood that amendments to the bank secrecy law in relation to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act will be passed by the end of the month.
What is the amendment for and who is affected by it? The answer to the first is that it is for the purpose of investigation on tax evasion cases. The second is that it covers everyone.

The bill aims to ease Republic Act (RA) 1405 or The Law on Secrecy of Bank Deposits, which is under the proposed Package 1B of the TRAIN Act to allow courts to order the opening of bank accounts but only as evidence for tax evasion cases. The coverage of the law covers anyone and not just public officials.

However, the qualifying determinant is the existence of suspicions and/or evidence of tax evasion.

The Philippines is among the few countries in the world that has a bank secrecy law which ensures secrecy of bank deposits and prohibits bank personnel from disclosing any information about a bank account holder unless required by a court or the depositor has issued a waiver.

The measure to include everyone other than public officials to those who would be covered by the proposed relaxation of the Bank Secrecy Law boils down to fairness and equal protection.

Given the noble intention of the law, there must remain some safeguards that will prevent people from using the provision in order to get through the blanket that protects one’s bank information from being accessed without one’s consent by way of a waiver.

Measures like this one are dangerously susceptible to abuse and must be plugged of its loopholes before it could even be passed.