‘Probe violators of debt moratorium order’

THE Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies asked monetary authorities to investigate financial intermediaries defying the debt moratorium order issued by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian reminded that the BSP, being the country’s regulator of the banking industry, is mandated to “ensure that banks and credit card issuers strictly follow the laws and protect consumers’ interests.” Gatchalian, however, didn’t name these “erring” financial intermediaries.

Still, the senator cited complaints have reached his office against non-compliance of some banks to the debt moratorium. Hence, the senator prodded the BSP to investigate erring banks “and make sure that they comply with the provisions under the Bayanihan 1 and 2 laws.”

The senator said that the “BSP should exercise its supervisory and regulatory powers over these erring banks by enforcing the provisions of the Bayanihan laws.”

Reminding that “a kid-gloves treatment will do no good at this time,” the lawmaker laments that “everyone is having a hard time financially.” He emphasized this was why regulators “should do their share as dictated upon by the law.”

Gatchalian pressed for a deeper probe after taking note of reports about mounting consumer credit-card complaints.

These “high number of credit card-related complaints received” by the BSP also prompted the central bank to issue Circular Letter CL-2021-008 last January 14. Signed by Deputy Governor Chuchi G. Fonacier, the circular said the BSP reminds all BSP-supervised financial institutions operating as credit card issuers “to strictly comply with the regulations governing credit card operations and consumer protection.”

The circular said these regulations are enshrined under the “Manual of Regulations on Credit Card Operations as amended by Circular 1098 dated September 24, 2020, and Financial Consumer Protection as amended by Circular 1048 dated September 6.”

The circular also noted these institutions must follow the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Section 4 (aa) of Republic Act (RA) 11649 (The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act) and Section 4 (uu) of RA 11494 (The Bayanihan to Recover as One Act) governing the relief on credit cards.”

The Senator cited the latter provision that requires banks to implement a non-extendible mandatory one-time 60-day grace period to all loans of individuals and entities that are existing, current and outstanding falling due on or before December 31, 2020.

“We anticipated that some loans would accrue interests because the party concerned has defaulted and that’s precisely the reason why we introduced these provisions in the laws, to protect consumers amid the global health pandemic,” Gatchalian said in a statement last Tuesday.

At the same time, Gatchalian appealed to lenders not to be too greedy to earn huge profits, discouraging them from taking advantage of or exploiting people in dire straits in the midst of pandemic, especially since laws dissuade them from doing so.

[“Huwag naman po sana tayong maging ganid para lang lumaki ang kita o tubo sa mga pinautang. Hindi tama na manantala sa mga taong gipit na lalo na kung nakasaad na ito sa batas.”]

Dapat pairalin natin ang bayanihan sa gitna ng pandemya,” the senator emphasized. [We must be in solidarity amid the pandemic.]

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