Senate defers anti-money laundering act amendments

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Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the presiding officer in the impeachment trial, said that whoever was behind the leakage of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s bank accounts could be the subject of a separate criminal complaint. INQUIRER file photo

The Senate on Wednesday deferred the approval of proposed amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla) after some lawmakers questioned the predicates under which the Anti-Money Laundering Council (Amlac) could share information with  internal revenue  investigators.

Although the amendments are needed to keep the Philippines off an international financial blacklist, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Joker Arroyo demanded that the Amla council and the Bureau of Internal Revenue first explain why they apparently use tax evasion “as an excuse to scrutinize the bank accounts of suspected money launderers.”

Through questioning, Enrile was able to elicit an admission from Senator Teofisto Guingona III that Amlac and the BIR “conduct joint efforts” to pin down suspected tax evaders.

Predicate crime

Enrile questioned whether tax evasion was a predicate crime for money laundering that would allow Amlac to participate in such  investigations.

Enrile took note of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Amlac and the BIR “to look into bank accounts of taxpayers.”

“Is tax evasion a predicate crime for money laundering? Why is there a need for a MOA?” the Senate President asked.

He warned that only Congress, through a legislative act, could include tax evasion as a predicate crime that would warrant investigation should the suspicion of money laundering arise.

Congress mandate

“It’s a mandate of Congress, not of bureaucrats,” he noted.

Guingona clarified that the MOA only allows the two agencies to “share financial data.”

The exchange prompted Arroyo to suggest that the Senate scrutinize the proposed amendments “more carefully.”

“The BIR is the agency that collects taxes, audits and conducts investigations.  But the Amla does not say that tax evasion is a predicate crime,” Arroyo noted.

“If the BIR prosecutes individuals for tax evasion and is empowered to obtain any information on business and income of persons subject to investigation with cooperation from Amlac, we have to go over this more carefully,” he warned.

Enrile suggested that BIR commissioner Kim Henares and Amlac executive director Vicente Aquino first clarify these issues with the Senate before it approves the amendments.

Pressure on  Senate

Pressure for the Senate to approve amendments to the Amla law emanates from a demand from the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for country support in the effort to track down transnational terrorist financing.

These include an expansion of country lists of predicate crimes for money laundering, a Terrorist Financing Suppression bill and the inclusion of an ex parte provision in the appropriate laws allowing investigators to scrutinize bank deposits  without informing a suspected launderer.

The FATF will hold a plenary session in June.  The international body is threatening to include the Philippines in its blacklist should President Benigno Aquino III fail to sign the amendments into law.

At present, the Philippines is in the FATF’s “dark grey list” after its failure to enact the amendments last December, Guingona warned.

Also on Wednesday, Enrile challenged Guingona to confirm whether other countries in the FATF’s so-called dark grey list are also being pressured to conform to its demands.

“Are we the only one not compliant?” Enrile asked.

Guingona said other countries being given the opportunity to amend their laws before the FATF plenary in June include Ecuador, Vietnam, Yemen, Algeria, Angola, Antigua, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Kyrgystan, Morocco, Tajikistan and Trinidad and Tobago.

Inquirer Viber

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  • http://twitter.com/MarLouWang Marlou Wang

    Bakit parang takot si Mang Johnny na ma-approve itong AMLAC?? Ang dami pa namang pinoy sa abroad.

    • tata_boy

      magkano kaya ang nakurakot ni manong magmula noong kapanahunan ni marcos?

      • Pedro_Gil

        Mas maraming nahakot yan after marcos.  Suriin ang Cagayan Valley lalo na ang port irene.

  • barako22

    puro magnanakaw kasi takot na makita ang mga nakaw na yaman 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MIQDQTQUTZG2IKF73OODCLQMPY R

    Guingona guilty! Siya ang nag-utos sa Amlac para ilabas mga bank accounts ni CJ.

  • oracle888

    Mr. Senators, how long will you need to move your dollar accounts away for hiding?

    You cannot defer the anti-money laundering act amendments forever because the International communities are watching us.

    Maybe you should consider Euro? Just don’t bring them out of the country like those euro-generals who were caught in Russia.

  • tata_boy

    the senatongs need time to move and hide their kurakots. 

  • Karabkatab

    Another law to protect the filthy rich.

  • 100% freedom of navigation

    We can not ignore the international FATF. We need to get our act together. I guess we just have to cooperate if there is going to have consequences. We have been a third world for so long time so reforms are needed.

    • tata_boy

      the likes of JPE, Joker, Cuevas and Santigago are the reason why Pinas is the sick old man of asia.

  • Pedro_Gil

    Ang mga pulitikong may ayaw sa pag-amenda sa batas na ito ay may mga tinatago.  Kaya nga ang dollar account ni Corona, ayaw ng mga senatong ipalabas. parepareho ang mga kumag na ito.  Puro BS lang ang mga yan.  Huwag pumayag ang mga mamamayan.   Tama na ang lutong makaw!!!! Amend!

  • kismaytami

    Kailangan muna nilang itago nang maayos ang mga $$$ accounts nila.

  • http://twitter.com/PlanetzMarz PlanetMarz

    COME ON LAWMAKERS…!!!!   We elect you to do good for our country, what is BAD on approving this????   

    UNLESS YOU HAVE $OMETHING TO HIDE……….

  • indiosbravos2002

    Is Enrile still hiding some of Marcoses loot in his account. JPE, magbago ka na. Di mo madadala pera mo sa kabilang buhay.

  • http://twitter.com/wee_kender wee

    it’s obvious why the senators are dragging their feet to amend the anti money laundering act…it’s to buy them time to plot their next moves on where to stash their loot.

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