Congress will work to amend Anti-Money Laundering Act

August 22, 2011 at 09:14

This is an article repost.

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Franklin Drilon assured that efforts will be undertaken by Congress to amend the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) anew in order to bring the Philippines out of the list of countries considered as being deficient by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and improve the overall efforts against terrorism and other criminal activities.

Drilon said that the amendment of the AMLA is part of the priority measures of the administration alongside the amendments to the Human Security Act or what is more commonly known as the Anti-Terrorism Law.

In a hearing on the proposed budget of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for 2012 at the Senate yesterday, AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino appealed for another round of amendments to the AMLA in order to address the weaknesses of the law and prevent a further downgrade in the standing of the country with the FATF.

Specifically, Aquino lamented the decision of Congress to remove the authority of the AMLC to freeze suspicious bank accounts immediately when it amended the AMLA in 2003.

This was followed by a ruling by the Supreme Court, which indicated that before the AMLC can inquire into any bank account, it must first give prior notice to the owner of the account.

In spite of the obstacles that he mentioned, Aquino said that the AMLC has been able to freeze a total of P2.8 billion in proceeds from various crimes of which P1.4 billion has been returned to the victims including the national government.

“We should have done more had we been empowered, as proposed by Senator (Panfilo) Lacson, to restore the AMLC’s authority to freeze.

We should have recovered about half a billion more arising from this military corruption (controversy),” Aquino said.

During the hearings of the Senate on the plea bargain agreement of former Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller Rodolfo Garcia and the alleged corruption in the military, the AMLC was asked about its efforts to recover the millions in funds stashed away by Garcia in various bank accounts.

Aside from the issue of recovering the funds sourced from corrupt activities, Aquino said that the weakness of the law has resulted in the Philippines being lumped alongside several countries “notoriously identified with drug lords, kidnap for ranson syndicates, plunderers and corruption practitioners.”

The FATF-International Cooperation Review Group placed the Philippines in the pool of so-called vulnerable jurisdictions alongside countries such as Nigeria, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“That is why we are in the pool of so-called vulnerable jurisdictions by the FATF-international Cooperation Review Group because of the Philippines’ failure to adequately criminalize money laundering,” Aquino said.

“Terrorist financing has not been criminalized as a stand alone offense. All these factors contributed to the downgrading of the rating of the Philippine Anti-Money Laundering-Combatting the Financing of Terrorism regime from at least largely compliant to partially and non-compliant. So we are between partially compliant and non-compliant as regards anti-money laundering and combating terrorism international standards,” he added.

He said that it was very embarrassing for the country to lumped together with those nations but efforts are being made to upgrade its status.

By: Marvin Sy
Source: The Philippine Star, Aug. 19, 2011
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