BSP admits printing error caused faceless P100 bills

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 28) — Earla Anne just wanted to withdraw some money she could give to her nieces and nephews for Christmas. Instead, she got the surprise of her life.

On December 25, she took out P2,400 from an a automated teller machine (ATM) of the Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) in Eastwood Libis, Quezon City. But when machine dispensed the bills, she thought her eyes were playing tricks on her.

"Pagkalabas ng pera, binilang ko... Pagkacheck ko nung 100s akala ko namalikmata lang ako. Kaya tiningnan ko uli siya ng gano'n. Pero wala sila talagang mukha. Sabi ko bakit ganito?" she said.

[Translation: When the money was released… I checked the 100 peso bills. I thought my eyes were fooling me. So I looked at them again and saw they really were faceless. I thought, why are they like this?]

She posted photos of the so-called faceless bills on social media and they went viral overnight. Some called it a hoax, others, a scam. But Earla Anne said she only wanted to notify authorities about the incident, even messaging the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) directly on Facebook to seek help. The BSP's reply to her was to coordinate with BPI about the money.

Since then, both the central bank and BPI have announced they would launch separate investigations on the incident.

Earla Anne sat down with reporters on Thursday to present the faceless bills. Side by side, the faceless bills are the same size, weight, and feel as normal bills -- but there were five key differences.

The faceless bills are missing the number 100 at the corners. They also lacked the words "Republika ng" and "Sandaang Piso" at the top and bottom parts of the paper. And of course, they didn't have the face of former President Manuel Roxas at the center.

'Rare misprint'

In a media briefing on Thursday, BSP admitted the money came from its own printing plants, but a glitch in one of its new machines -- installed just last month -- caused the misprint.

BSP Managing Director for Currency Management Carlyn Pangilinan said, "In this particular case the BSP has identified the mechanical cause of the misprinting. It has since been resolved."

The central bank said there were only 33 misprinted pieces of the 100 peso notes -- equivalent to just 0.00009% of the whole batch from that certain machine.

"The incident is isolated. There should be no cause for alarm," Pangilinan said.

She added the misprint was not a security concern for the central bank, which prints and mints bills. The new machines they bought are "high-powered and top-level," and they make it harder for counterfeiters to copy each security layer and feature.

The glitches, she said, were just "birth pains."

Collectors' items

Meanwhile, officials called on those who received defective bills to turn them over so the BSP could validate the bills and document the errors. She assured the holders would be repaid with the same value of the defective bills.

As for Earla Anne, she said she has already received offers from money collectors who want to get their hands on the rare bills.

"Hindi ko na po nirereplyan. Dinedelete ko na messages nila kasi super dami na po," she said.

[Translation: I haven't replied to them. I've deleted the messages because there are so many.]

Earla Anne has no plans of exchanging the faceless bills either. She said she would turn over one piece to BPI to help in its investigation. The other three pieces, however, she's keeping for herself as a souvenir.