By Beting Laygo Dolor
Contributing Editor

He lied.

This, in a nutshell, is what former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) governor Jose Cuisia Jr. said regarding the claim of former Foreign Affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. that he was not yet connected with Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank when its officers approved of PHP350 million (about US$7 million) in questionable loans.

Cuisia said last week that Yasay was already a member of the board of directors of the bank in 2010 when the central bank discovered Banco Filipino’s violation of banking laws.

Yasay was arrested and charged two weeks ago over alleged violation of banking laws that occurred between 2003 and 2006. Yasay joined Banco Filipino in 2009. His defense, therefore, was that he had nothing to do with the questionable loans.

However, it was learned that Yasay failed to report to the BSP the PHP350 million in a series of loans that Banco Filipino had extended to Tierrasud, Inc., which owned 1.8 percent of the bank.

“There is a requirement that loans to stockholders owning more than one percent of the stockholdings of the bank must be reported to the central (bank), which they failed to do,” Cuisia said.

After Banco Filipino ignored the first directive to report the loan, the board was given a second chance. This, they also ignored, according to Cuisia.

Previously closed by the old Central Bank but allowed to reopen under the BSP, Banco Filipino was finally closed again in 2011.

“They had so much time to comply,” said Cuisia, adding that Yasay should have read the manual regulations regarding loans to stockholders.

“They must report to the Monetary Board. He’s a lawyer. He should know,” added Cuisia. The Monetary Board is the country’s highest monetary authority and is headed by the incumbent governor of the BSP.

Yasay was previously chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission which strictly enforces reporting laws and punishes violations. As such, he was expected to be aware of all reporting laws of the BSP.

Besides Yasay, five other former board members of the bank were charged for multiple violations of the New Central Bank Act. The arrest order was issued by Branch 8 of the Manila Regional Trial Court.

Yasay served as the first Foreign Affairs secretary under President Rodrigo Duterte, but he failed to receive the approval of the Commission on Appointments because he did not disclose that he was a dual US and Philippine citizen.

Banco Filipino was once upon a time one of the Philippines’ biggest savings banks. Founded by the late Tomas Aguirre, who also founded the sprawling BF Homes in Paranaque City, Banco Filipino was ordered closed by the old Central Bank under then governor Jobo Fernandez.
Banco Filipino had availed of PHP3 billion in emergency loans which it failed to repay.

According to Cuisia, founder Aguirre had offered to pay the loan over a period of 10 years at no interest. Cuisia said this was totally unacceptable, but he did extend a counter-offer of 50 percent payment with the balance payable in five years at prevailing interest rates.

Since its second closure, stockholders have been trying to re-open Banco Filipino to no avail.

It was Cuisia who presided over the closure of the old Central Bank of the Philippines to make way for the BSP during the time of the late President Cory Aquino.

The old CB was found to be bankrupt when Mrs. Aquino took over from the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, under whose helm the Central Bank approved of numerous behest loans to his cronies. Most of those loans were never paid.

Cuisia did not finish his term as BSP governor due to health issues.