Lawmakers agree to pass changes to anti-money laundering law-A A +A
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
REPRESENTATIVES from both houses of Congress approved Wednesday the bill that will allow the government to look into bank accounts and investments of suspected money launderers without the consent of the depositor.
This should be done, said author Senator Teofisto Guingona III, since some people suspected of involvement in unlawful activities, can resort to emptying out their bank accounts before the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) can inquire into them.
The bicameral conference committee approved version dropped the Sandiganbayan and retained the Court of Appeals as the court that could issue a freeze order. The members of the committee adopted the Senate version as their working draft.
Certified by Malacañang as urgent, Senate Bill 3009 will then be sent to the plenary of the House of Representatives and the Senate for ratification on Wednesday afternoon. Congress will wrap up sessions before the one-month break.
The bill also empowers the AMLC to inquire into not just the main account but also related accounts, referring to "funds and sources of which originated from and/or are materially linked to the monetary instrument(s) or property(ies) subject of the freeze order(s)."
Guingona said he has witnessed the usual scheme wherein funds that are unlawfully acquired or stolen from government are moved from one account to another, preferably to the accounts of their wives, brothers-in-law, and drivers.
As safety net, probable cause should be established before an inquiry order can be issued by the Court of Appeals.
Under the bill, the court should act on the petition to freeze the account within 24 hours from filing of the petition. Also, no court shall issue a temporary restraining order or a writ of injunction against any freeze order, except the Supreme Court.
The passage of the bill comes in the heels of possible sanctions from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) unless the Philippines meets its May 2012 deadline of making amendments to AMLA law.
FATF is an inter-agency governmental policy-making body tasked to combat money-laundering and anti-terrorist financing.
If blacklisted by the FATF, Philippine-based transactions would face increased scrutiny which could result in higher transaction charges and delayed remittances of Filipinos working abroad, which reached $4.84 billion in the first quarter of 2012. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)