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‘P20-M cash loaded into manager’s car’

Romualdo Agarrado, reserve officer of RCBC-Metro Manila regional office, testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that he personally saw how messenger Jovie Morales loaded the P20 million into Maia Santos-Deguito’s car. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines - It was Maia Santos-Deguito, manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) branch in Jupiter Street, Makati, who withdrew about P20 million from the unauthorized account of businessman William Go and loaded the cash in her car, a bank employee told the Senate yesterday.

Romualdo Agarrado, reserve officer of RCBC-Metro Manila regional office, testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that he personally saw how messenger Jovie Morales loaded the P20 million into Deguito’s car.

“BM Maia left the branch bringing with her the P20-million cash withdrawal of Centurytex/William Go to be delivered somewhere. However, I know that there was never a Mr. William Go that went to the Jupiter BC to pick up his cash withdrawal that night,” Agarrado said in an affidavit submitted to the Blue Ribbon committee, which is investigating the laundering in the Philippines of $81 million owned by the Bank of Bangladesh and stolen by alleged Chinese hackers from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Agarrado, then customer service head of the Jupiter branch managed by Deguito, recalled that at around 5:35 p.m. on Feb. 5, an armored car arrived at the branch to deliver the P20 million requested by senior customer relations officer Angela Torres. 

The cash was brought to Deguito’s car between 6:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.

Agarrado’s statement negated Deguito’s claims that she loaded the money to a Lexus car owned by Go.

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Agarrado said he only came to realize that something was wrong when he saw in an Outstanding Exception Report for the Day (Feb. 5) the P20-million withdrawal.  “This transaction was tagged as irregular since it was processed even though the withdrawal slip for his transaction does not have the signature of the accountholder, Centurytex/William Go,” he said.

He added he was shocked by Deguito’s statements, justifying the transaction with a claim that she had to do it because of threats to her life and her family.

He added that Deguito told him about her concern while he and Torres were inside the branch manager’s office.

“On Feb. 9, 2016, BM Maia called me and the SCRO Angela to her office, telling us that she had to proceed with the transactions, otherwise, she or her family will be killed,” he said.

“I was already very nervous then and teary-eyed because of what I heard from her, and I had mixed emotions during that time. SCRO Angela was crying too,” he said.

He also recalled that there was a dinner meeting on Feb. 12 in the house of another bank employee named Adrian Yujuico where he, Deguito, Torres and Morales were present.

It was during that meeting when Deguito tried to talk to him not to be afraid because she could provide him with lawyers who were knowledgeable with the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

He was also asked if he would accept P5 million in exchange for his silence on the issue. “Kasya na ba sayo ang five million pesos (Is P5 million enough for you)?” he recalled Deguito as telling him.

RCBC’s chief legal officer Maria Cecillia Estavillo said they find Aggarado’s statements credible.

Estavillo said RCBC is working on filing perjury charges against Torres over her claim that it was Go who received the P20 million.  

Torres’ claims were negated further by entries on the logbook of the security team detailed at the branch.

“We have an affidavit, we considered it as a perjured affidavit. The guard log does not support it… we will file a case against Angela Torres,” she said.

Estavillo said the bank does not tolerate irregularities as a matter of policy and that if anything unlawful was committed, the bank would promptly pursue charges.

“There have been so many lies and half-truths being peddled out there… We are cognizant of our (responsibility)… under the bank secrecy law… We do not coddle criminals,” she added.

Who is Jason Go?

At the start of the hearing, Blue Ribbon chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III also asked RCBC president and chief executive officer Lorenzo Tan if he knows of a certain Jason Go.

“Mr. Lorenzo Tan, do you know a certain Jason Go, a dealer of expensive cars?” Guingona asked Tan.

“Your honor, he is a friend,” Tan said.  “I have known him for a long time. People who lived in Makati (know him as someone who) – sells cars… a lot of CEOs of corporations would know him,” Tan added.

On questioning by Sen. Ralph Recto,  it was learned that it was Jason Go who recommended that Deguito be assigned as manager of the Jupiter branch.

Raul Victor Tan, treasurer of RCBC and formerly head of retail banking, recognized that Jason Go “brought a substantial amount” to the business but denied he enjoyed special treatment – like being allowed to recommend an individual to serve as manager of a certain branch.

Recto’s questioning focused on the premise that Deguito was supposed to be assigned to another branch until Jason Go reportedly intervened and had her assigned instead at the Jupiter branch.

At the hearing last Tuesday, Deguito declined to answer most of the questions raised by the senators, citing her right against self-incrimination as charges have been filed against her by the Department of Justice. Yesterday, she spoke to the committee in an executive session and was later taken to the clinic when the public hearing resumed.

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