NBI needs court order to probe Bautista’s unexplained wealth


MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday urged the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to secure court authority to probe the alleged ill-gotten wealth of Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Andres Bautista or risk getting “in trouble.”

Drilon made this call after the NBI, during a Senate hearing into controversy hounding the Comelec chair, said that it is currently conducting its own probe into Bautista’s unexplained wealth.

He expressed concern that without the limitation on the authority of the NBI, the bureau could use their powers to “harass” not just political opponents but the public as well.

“…Before the NBI can examine any bank account, they must secure a court order because that is what the law requires in the Bank Secrecy Law and the Anti-Money Laundering Act,” Drilon told reporters in an interview.

“They have to secure a court order before they can examine the account of not only Chairman Bautista but of any citizen,” he added.

Drilon explained that both Bautista and the public should also be protected from “politically-motivated investigation.” Bautista was appointed during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III.

“…We need the court to examine whether the authority examining the bank account is politically motivated or not,” the senator said.

He clarified that although the order of Department of Justice (DOJ) Vitaliano Aguirre II to the NBI is within the law, he said that the exercise of that authority the NBI must also comply with the law.

“…The Secretary of Justice has the power to direct the NBI to conduct an investigation in any manner but the investigation must be done in accordance with the law,” Drilon said.

Drilon said that he supported Senator Francis Escudero’s proposal to repeal the Bank Secrecy Law, however, there should also be “safeguards” so that the amendment of the law will not be used as political harassment.

“We will repeal the Bank Secrecy Law but we must guard against using the Bank Secrecy Law as a tool for political harassment,” he added, noting that the current Justice Secretary is “very partisan.”

“We are not saying that investigation (in Bautista’s bank accounts) should not take place, the investigation should proceed, but we must follow the law,” he added. PNA-northboundasia.com