Senate summons BPI, BDO officials to explain bank glitches

Ranking officers of the Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) and Banco de Oro (BDO) are being summoned to testify on Wednesday before a Senate inquiry into “technical malfunctions” that caused some of their clients to lose money in unauthorized transactions last week.

Sen. Francis G. Escudero confirmed over the weekend the Senate’s Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies will be looking into the reported unauthorized transactions and withdrawals in BPI and BDO accounts, as well as immediate measures taken to prevent a repeat of the problem and allay concerns this could recur in other banks.

Apart from BPI and BDO officials, also expected to testify before the committee are officials of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) Cybercrime unit, which conducted separate inquiries into the two banks’ system malfunctions.

Escudero, committee chairman, however, said he opted not specify and left it up to BPI and BDO managements whom to send as their “responsible” bank officials who will face questioning by senators at the initial hearing he set at 9:30 a.m. on June 21.

“It is up to them, as long as they are responsible officers who can answer all our questions,” the senator told the BusinessMirror.

Escudero earlier disclosed that his committee opted to first “await findings” of the parallel probes by the BSP, the AMLC and the NBI Cybercrime before setting a date for the Senate inquiry in aid of crafting remedial legislation, if necessary.

Last week Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III had backed the move of the banks committee to formally inquire into the BPI and BDO episodes, noting that “the matter of the security and integrity of our banking sector has now become an urgent topic to examine and be transparent about.”

Pimentel pointed out it is not just the experiences of BPI and BDO that warrants attention, but that the “news of the recent arrests of foreigners tampering with our ATMs [automated teller machines] should be sufficient impulse and justification for us to hear and investigate this matter.”

BDO itself had reckoned with its problems head-on by issuing a public alert that it has “obtained reports of potentially compromised ATMs following reported losses from cardholders”.

It advised customers with unauthorized transactions to “reach out to the bank via formal channels so that their cases may be properly investigated and, where confirmed as impacted, may be reimbursed”.

BDO reassured the public “that it exerts all efforts to protect its cardholders and their transactions”.

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