Saturday, May 30, 2015

Exception To The Absolute Confidentiality Of Foreign Currency Deposit Under RA 6426 as amended by PD 1246…

Jose filed a case for recovery of sums of money and annulment of sales of real properties and shares of stock against his daughter, Margaret, and son-in-law George. According to him, Margaret stole P35 Million and $864,000.00. During the pendency of the case, Jose died, hence he was substituted by his daughter, Elizabeth. The latter presented several Citibank checks payable to Jose and/or Margaret which Margaret allegedly deposited with China Bank, and moved for the issuance of subpoena which the trial court granted, ordering Cristina and Isable, both employees of Chinabank to testify on the case. Chinabank moved for reconsideration, which the trial court partially granted, ordering the two employees to testify only for the purpose of identifying the name or names of the Chinabank account holder and not for any other matter. From this order, Chibank filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decision of the trial court. According to the CA, Chinabank erred when it averred that foreign currency deposits are absolutely confidential and may not be inquired into. The law (RA 6426 as amended by PD 1246) protects only the deposit not the name of the depositor.
Chinabank thus appealed via petition for review on certiorari the ruling of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court:
“As amended by Presidential Decree No. 1246, the law reads:
SEC. 8. Secrecy of Foreign Currency Deposits. – All foreign currency deposits authorized under this Act, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1035, as well as foreign currency deposits authorized under Presidential Decree No. 1034, are hereby declared as and considered of an absolutely confidential nature and, except upon the written permission of the depositor, in no instance shall such foreign currency deposits be examined, inquired or looked into by any person, government official, bureau or office whether judicial or administrative or legislative or any other entity whether public or private: Provided, however, that said foreign currency deposits shall be exempt from attachment, garnishment, or any other order or process of any court, legislative body, government agency or any administrative body whatsoever. (As amended by PD No. 1035, and further amended by PD No. 1246, prom. Nov. 21, 1977) (Emphasis supplied.)
Under the above provision, the law provides that all foreign currency deposits authorized under Republic Act No. 6426, as amended by Sec. 8, Presidential Decree No. 1246, Presidential Decree No. 1035, as well as foreign currency deposits authorized under Presidential Decree No. 1034 are considered absolutely confidential in nature and may not be inquired into. There is only one exception to the secrecy of foreign currency deposits, that is, disclosure is allowed upon the written permission of the depositor.
This much was pronounced in the case of Intengan v. Court of Appeals, where it was held that the only exception to the secrecy of foreign currency deposits is in the case of a written permission of the depositor.”
x x x
“As to the deposit in foreign currencies entitled to be protected under the confidentiality rule, Presidential Decree No. 1034, defines deposits to mean funds in foreign currencies which are accepted and held by an offshore banking unit in the regular course of business, with the obligation to return an equivalent amount to the owner thereof, with or without interest.”
“With the foregoing, we are now tasked to determine the single material issue of whether or not petitioner China Bank is correct in its submission that the Citibank dollar checks with both Jose Gotianuy and/or Mary Margaret Dee as payees, deposited with China Bank, may not be looked into under the law on secrecy of foreign currency deposits. As a corollary issue, sought to be resolved is whether Jose Gotianuy may be considered a depositor who is entitled to seek an inquiry over the said deposits.
The Court of Appeals, in allowing the inquiry, considered Jose Gotianuy, a co-depositor of Mary Margaret Dee. It reasoned that since Jose Gotianuy is the named co-payee of the latter in the subject checks, which checks were deposited in China Bank, then, Jose Gotianuy is likewise a depositor thereof. On that basis, no written consent from Mary Margaret Dee is necessitated.
We agree in the conclusion arrived at by the Court of Appeals.”
x x x
Thus, with this, there is no issue as to the source of the funds. Mary Margaret Dee declared the source to be Jose Gotianuy. There is likewise no dispute that these funds in the form of Citibank US dollar Checks are now deposited with China Bank.
As the owner of the funds unlawfully taken and which are undisputably now deposited with China Bank, Jose Gotianuy has the right to inquire into the said deposits.
A depositor, in cases of bank deposits, is one who pays money into the bank in the usual course of business, to be placed to his credit and subject to his check or the beneficiary of the funds held by the bank as trustee.
On this score, the observations of the Court of Appeals are worth reiterating:
Furthermore, it is indubitable that the Citibank checks were drawn against the foreign currency account with Citibank, NA. The monies subject of said checks originally came from the late Jose Gotianuy, the owner of the account. Thus, he also has legal rights and interests in the CBC account where said monies were deposited. More importantly, the Citibank checks (Exhibits “AAA” to “AAA-5″) readily demonstrate (sic) that the late Jose Gotianuy is one of the payees of said checks. Being a co-payee thereof, then he or his estate can be considered as a co-depositor of said checks.
Ergo, since the late Jose Gotianuy is a co-depositor of the CBC account, then his request for the assailed subpoena is tantamount to an express permission of a depositor for the disclosure of the name of the account holder. The April 16, 1999 Order perforce must be sustained. (Emphasis supplied.)
One more point. It must be remembered that in the complaint of Jose Gotianuy, he alleged that his US dollar deposits with Citibank were illegally taken from him. On the other hand, China Bank employee Cristuta Labios testified that Mary Margaret Dee came to China Bank and deposited the money of Jose Gotianuy in Citibank US dollar checks to the dollar account of her sister Adrienne Chu. This fortifies our conclusion that an inquiry into the said deposit at China Bank is justified. At the very least, Jose Gotianuy as the owner of these funds is entitled to a hearing on the whereabouts of these funds.
All things considered and in view of the distinctive circumstances attendant to the present case, we are constrained to render a limited pro hac vice ruling. Clearly it was not the intent of the legislature when it enacted the law on secrecy on foreign currency deposits to perpetuate injustice. This Court is of the view that the allowance of the inquiry would be in accord with the rudiments of fair play, the upholding of fairness in our judicial system and would be an avoidance of delay and time-wasteful and circuitous way of administering justice.”
THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS and JOSE “JOSEPH” GOTIANUY as substituted by ELIZABETH GOTIANUY LO, respondents,FIRST DIVISION, G.R. No. 140687, December 18, 2006

1 comment:

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