PDEA seeks for relaxation of bank secrecy, anti-wiretap laws

THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is pushing for the relaxation of the bank secrecy law and the amendment of the anti-wire tapping law in order to strengthen its fight against illegal drugs, an official said Monday

PDEA Director General Isidro Lapeña said that there is an urgent need to review the country’s strict bank secrecy law to expedite investigations pertaining to money-laundering activities perpetrated by big-time drug syndicates.

“I believed that a substantial portion of laundered money comes from the production and trafficking of illegal drugs. Dubious bank accounts and other state-regulated entities such as casinos, have become conduits for laundering drug money,” Lapeña said, citing the practice of suspected drug lords who “wash” their proceeds to make it appear they were acquired through legitimate means.

To stop money laundering activities of arrested high-value drug personalities and drug syndicates, PDEA has intensified financial investigation of drug cases resulting in the freezing, if not forfeiture, of assets.

“When PDEA seizes bank passbooks and transaction slips containing large amounts of money during anti-drug operations, we immediately forward them to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for investigation,” Lapeña added.

PDEA has referred drug cases to the AMLC for financial investigation.

As a result, cash amounting to P392,168,729.77 in local and foreign currencies, 24 units of motor vehicles worth P15,285,000 and real estate assets amounting to P68,080,500, with an overall value of P475,534,229.77, were frozen by the AMLC from FY 2003-2015, PDEA said.

The anti-narcotics agency is also eyeing for the amendment of Republic Act No. 4200, otherwise known as the “Act to Prohibit and Penalize Wire Tapping and Other Related Violations of the Privacy of Communication, and for Other Purposes”.

“Senate Bill 48, a proposed measure authored by Senator Panfilo Lacson, will allow wire tapping in cases involving violations of Republic Act 9165 or 'The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002'. If approved, we can intercept and record criminal communications of suspected big-time drug lords and use it as evidence against them,” Lapeña noted.

“PDEA recommends for appropriate and timely legislations that will give more teeth to the national anti-drug campaign. The liberalization of our bank secrecy law and eventual amendment of the anti-wire tapping law will give PDEA and other drug law enforcement agencies additional investigative and judicial tools to reach the structure and hierarchy of drug-trafficking organizations and finally bring them to justice,” the PDEA chief concluded.

The latest International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) revealed that PDEA and other law enforcement agencies made headway in enhancing counter-narcotic operations in the Philippines.

However, despite the progress, the country’s capability to successfully prosecute high-volume drug traffickers remains hampered due to the inability to use judicially authorized interception of criminal communications, and inefficient drug asset forfeiture system, among others.

The development of enhanced judicial investigative capabilities and imposition of money-laundering controls on casinos would allow the government to better combat the increasingly sophisticated drug trafficking organizations, PDEA said. (SDR/Sunnex)
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