Palace seeks speedy passage of urgent bills on money laundering, terror funding
Malacañang wants the Senate to approve two urgent bills aimed at curbing money laundering and terror funding, warning that failure to do so in two months would result in the Philippines’ being blacklisted by the global-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
In a letter to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa specifically asked that a bill strengthening the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla) and the terrorist financing suppression bill be approved by May.
Ochoa said the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) had earlier warned that the FATF wanted the measures approved “not later than 31 December 2011.”
“The two bills were certified by the President as urgent legislative measures,” Ochoa’s letter dated March 1 stressed.
“According to the AMLC, being downgraded (from the ‘gray list’) to the ‘dark gray list’ (which) means that the Philippines has been given until May 2012 or before the next FATF plenary in June 2012 to enact the said two bills, otherwise our country will be blacklisted,” Ochoa warned.
He said that inclusion in the dark gray list meant that the Philippines would be “subjected to financial sanctions by the international community…”
These sanctions include “delayed (overseas Filipino workers’) remittances, higher charges and intermediation costs on financial transactions of Philippine banks and citizens, and thorough scrutiny of Philippine-based transactions, among others.”
Attached to Ochoa’s letter was a four-page letter addressed to President Aquino and signed by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco, Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Teresita Herbosa and Emmanuel Dooc, head of the Insurance Commission.
The letter was printed on AMLC stationery and quoted a warning from the FATF that “despite the Philippines’ high level of political commitment to work (against global terrorism), the FATF is not yet satisfied that the Philippines has made sufficient progress in implementing its action plan…”
The letter noted that the same measures were also waiting for the approval of the House of Representatives.
The rest of the letter is an elaboration of the consequences that Ochoa warned about in case Congress failed to enact the two measures.
Sitting on bill?
Last week, Enrile hinted that the Senate might sit on the bill amending the Amla due to the BSP’s seeming lack of initiative to investigate how Chief Justice Renato Corona’s signature card in Philippine Savings Bank was leaked to House prosecutors.
Enrile said the leak was indicative of a violation of bank secrecy laws.
The Senate President also vaguely acknowledged in a hearing of the banks and financial institutions on Thursday that there was pressure on the chamber to enact the bill amending the Amla.
He said the Senate would not be wont to do so if the BSP and bank officials fail to protect the information of a depositor like the Chief Justice.
At present, the Senate bill seeking to strengthen the Amla is still being debated on the floor. Senator Miriam Santiago was the last to interpellate the bill’s sponsor, Senator Teofisto Guingona III.
The terrorist financing suppression bill is also currently subject to plenary debate.