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What does Luke Roxas not want to disclose?

(Article published in the Apr 7, 2010 issue of Manila Standard Today)  

Luke the evangelist, the only gospel who writer gave us the moving account of the conversation of the three men hanging on their separate crosses in the place called the skull,  is the epitome of full disclosure.

 Explaining why he wrote his own version of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, despite the proliferation of already available material, Luke wrote at the very beginning of his gospel: “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”

 In his second book, called the The Acts of the Apostles, Luke presents, again at the very beginning, the nexus of what he is writing to his prior work. He writes, “In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chose.”

 Luke the evangelist’s operative words are, in the third Gospel, “everything” and, in the Acts, “all.”  He was, in current terminology, very transparent; he was fully open, even frank enough to write of incidents embarrassing to Jesus’ early followers.

 Thus, he wrote of the 12-year old Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it similar to our teens who play hooky; of the disciples sleeping while Jesus agonized in the garden like some security guards sleeping at their posts; of Jesus being betrayed by one of his chosen twelve indicating Jesus’ lack of HR screening; of one of the twelve so lacking in skill with the sword  that he could do no better than cut off no more than the right ear of the slave of the high priest; and of Peter’s triple denial, again failure of HR.  This type of candidness you could not expect from the press briefings of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Cerge Rimonde or Gary Olivar.


 But whereas Luke the mentor of Theophilus was open and straightforward, one of his current namesakes, a modern Luke surnamed Roxas, is not.  Luke Roxas, with mighty effrontery, recently slammed the door in the face of BSP examiners who wanted to look into the books of his ASB Holdings, Inc (ASBHI).

 Not only that.  He got official imprimatur of his defiance from the Department of Justice that agreed with what he did. As a consequence, if the Monetary Board, does not act soon and does not bring Luke Roxas and his subalterns to court straight away, all that will be left with us would be a banking regulator clothed with no respectability at all. In the sight of the domestic and foreign banking community, a Monetary Board, unable to make Luke Roxas submit to the inspection of his company’s books, for the purpose of determining a banking issue, would not be worthy of its role as banking regulator.

 The case started when the Monetary Board, acting on a letter of the law office I work in, on 12 April 2007, in its Resolution No. 416, told its examiners to conduct “as soon as possible an examination, inspection, or investigation of the books and records of ASB Holdings, Inc.” precisely to determine asking whether or not ASBHI and its group of companies are engaged in quasi-banking without a license.  On 18 June 2007, a team was dispatched to ASBHI’s office at the 4th Floor, Saint Francis Square, Doña Julia Vargas Avenue, Ortigas Centre. Mandaluyong City.

 Initially, an assistant head of ASBHI’s Accounting Department politely asked for time to consider.  She gave the BSP team that went in compliance with the MB order a letter saying, “…At this juncture, may we just respectfully request that you give us time, at least fifteen (15) days from today, to carefully study this matter and to formally respond to your letter, stating therein our position and legal stance…”

Peaceably, the BSP team left but came back on 25 June 2007 and served on ASBHI a letter denying the request for a 15-day extension and reiterating its authority under Sections 4 and 6 of the R.A. No. 8791.  Again, BSP was refused access by ASBHI and was given a second letter, this time requesting for reconsideration. 

Two days later, the BSP team returned with a letter denying the request for reconsideration and insisting on, in fact making a final demand, the conduct of an examination within 24 hours.  For the third time, the BSP examiners were not given access to ASBHI’s books and records. 

On 17 July 2007, still with the patience of Job, the BSP examiners went back to ASBHI, for the fourth and last time, and served on ASBHI a letter reminding it of the time that had elapsed (enough time to put its records in order if ASBHI had been in any least mood to allow the BSP inspection) since the BSP served its first letter.  ASBHI, as it did during the three prior occasions, did not permit the inspection and examination of its books.

Four times the BSP examiners went to ASBHI and four times they were refused access.  In fact, on 02 July 2007, they were told in a letter off bluntly: “ASBHI is not submitting to your jurisdiction.  As earlier said, ASBHI is not a bank much less a financial institution over which the BSP can exercise regulatory and supervisory powers…”  In other words, “shoo!”

Since this was, to the BSP, clear defiance of Section 6 of R.A. No. 8791 which says that “the determination of whether a person or entity is performing banking or quasi-banking functions without Bangko Sentral authority shall be decided by the Monetary Board…[which] may…examine, inspect or investigate the books and records of such person or entity”, the BSP on 13 September 2007 accused Luke Roxas and others before the Department of Justice of violating the law.

The Department of Justice however in a resolution dated 19 October 2009, but received by the BSP only on 21 December, sided with Luke Roxas and dismissed the complaint.  BSP filed its motion for reconsideration on January 4, 2010 but the motion was curtly denied in a two-page resolution saying that the DOJ had “carefully reviewed anew the evidence on record in the light of the arguments advanced in the motion for reconsideration and found no cogent reason to reconsider…”

I leave for another day the analysis of the legal arguments of Luke Roxas and company on the one hand and the BSP on the other.  For now, still in the hang-over of the religious season, I simply raise the alarm that if the BSP takes its set back at the DOJ passively and does not go to court, it will be exhibiting as much courage as the young disciple in the Garden when Jesus was arrested, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. When the soldiers caught hold of him, notes another gospel writer, “he left the linen cloth and ran-off naked.”  A BSP covering in fear will be a laughable footnote to say the kindest in our banking regulatory set up.