Amla faces rough sailing
Sen. Joker Arroyo expects rough sailing for the bill increasing the transactions and predicate crimes that would be covered by the country’s antimoney laundering laws despite the administration’s preference that this be passed before February.
Arroyo, who earlier blocked Senate Bill No. 3123’s movement into the period of amendments on the Senate floor, said a good number of lawmakers fear that the measure’s provisions could be used by whoever controls the administration to go after its political opponents.
“Madugo ‘yun (It’s going to be difficult). Other senators, they don’t like it really… That’s why it has not moved. The sentiment is against it,” Arroyo told the Inquirer in an interview.
Arroyo said that under the proposed Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla) amendments, those who don’t tow the administration line could be threatened with freeze orders on their bank accounts on suspicion of any of the predicate crimes that would be increased if SBN 3123 is passed.
One provision he expects to be opposed is the inclusion of tax evasion as one of the predicate crimes that could be acted on by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
“The Bureau of Internal Revenue need not go after them. They would just go after the bank deposits; freeze it. Then after freezing it, ex-parte, there would be negotiations with the internal revenue,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo downplayed the perceived threat of a blacklisting by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) if the country fails to enact the third tranche of amendments before the FATF’s meeting in February.
He said the Philippines’ standing with the FATF wasn’t downgraded even after it failed to pass the pending set of amendments before Congress went on recess in October.
The FATF in the middle of 2012 upgraded the Philippines to the grey list from the dark grey list after the country enacted two sets of amendments that supposedly strengthened the country’s anti-money laundering laws.
The two sets of amendments already enacted delved mainly on waiving the requirement of prior notice before suspect accounts are monitored and on criminalizing financial contributions to terrorist organizations.
Arroyo also indicated the need to include banks among the parties that could be held liable for accepting funds from criminal activities.
“In short, dirty monies are deposited with banks, but our Amla law does not punish the banks for accepting dirty money. So they accepted dirty money and who is the one made liable? Everyone else except the banks,” Arroyo said the Senate plenary during the last session day in December.
Arroyo said he has shown Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the bill’s sponsor, a news report of the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp. getting penalized by the United States treasury and justice departments “to the tune of $1.9 billion.”
“That is almost P80 billion. That is the penalty for accepting dirty money. We do not have that here, there will be no money-laundering here if the banks do not accept dirty money. And then we will just forget it,” Arroyo said.