THE Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) are currently working fully with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to freeze more bank accounts of identified drug lords in the country, the Journal Group learned yesterday.
So far, the AMLC had already ‘frozen’ multimillion-peso worth of assets of the Kuratong Baleleng and the Parojinog Gang in Mindanao. Under the new law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last month, properties including houses and motor vehicles of drug lords may be frozen and confiscated in favor of the PNP and the PDEA.
Officials explained that thru the AMLC, the PNP headed by General Debold M. Sinas and the PDEA headed by Director General Wilkins M. Villanueva particularly can request the court to take custody of arrested drug lords’ motor vehicles which they can use in future anti-narcotics operations instead of letting these cars or SUVs rot while exposed to the elements for years.
Houses of convicted drug lords can also be taken over by the PNP and the PDEA and be used for official purposes provided they have the approval of the AMLC and the proper courts, the Journal Group was told.
Officials said that the stronger anti-money laundering law approved by President Duterte would be a big boost to the PNP and the PDEA’s war on drugs. In the past, dozens of cars, SUVs and motorcycles seized following raids on secret drug laboratories or during drug-related arrests merely turned into junks after being exposed to the weather for years in PNP and PDEA impounding facilities.
The PNP and the PDEA likewise failed to preserve the houses of captured drug lords since they are not allowed to use them for other purposes. It was proven in the case of a raided major shabu manufacturing facility in a beach resort in Tanza, Cavite which reportedly has deteriorated after years of government neglect.
In 2017, the beach resort was ordered forfeited in favor of the government by Trece Martires City Regional Trial Court Judge Emily Aliño-Geluz. The court ordered the forfeiture of the 2,572-square meter beachfront property as well as the money in the bank account of defendant Li Lan Yan alias Jackson Dy. The property consisted of four parcels of land along the shore of Tanza.
Members of the now defunct PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF) raided the beach resort that resulted in the dismantling of the shabu laboratory. Li Lan Yan, together with some members of the drug syndicate, was charged with violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act No. 9165) before the Cavite court. He was also charged with violation of the same law before a court in Parañaque City in which he was convicted.
The AMLC said its investigation had revealed that “Li Lan Yan bought the beach resort using proceeds derived from his illegal drug business.” Recovered during the raid were 131 kilograms of shabu and 548.4 kilos of ephedrine, a chemical used in making the illegal drug.
“Pinupuntahan natin ngayon kung saan ang balon na pinaglalagyan ng pera nila, at marami pa kaming ifi-freeze na bank accounts in the pipelines ng mga nahuhuli naming sindikato,” said PDEA’s Villanueva after leading the destruction of over P900 million worth of seized shabu chemicals and laboratory equipment in a special facility in Valenzuela City last week.
“Hindi lang users at pushers ang binibigyan ng proper intervention but also yung may-ari mismo ng pera,” he added.
Villanueva explained that their effort to freeze the accounts of drug syndicates were further intensified because of a memorandum of agreement the agency signed with the AMLC in in 2019 which ensures coordination between the two agencies in detecting and probing money laundering activities and other AMLC violations among drug personalities in the country.
Sinas has sought the help of the AMLC in training the PNP Drug Enforcement Group headed by Brigadier Gen. Ronald O. Lee on detecting drug lords’ assets and freezing them.
Duterte signed the new law, Republic Act 11521 which expanded the coverage of activities and persons subject to scrutiny by the AMLC. It now covers Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, particularly transactions exceeding ₱500,000, as well as real estate developers and brokers engaging in single cash transactions worth more than ₱7.5 million.
The AMLC is also granted the authority to investigate, and in doing so apply for a search and seizure order or subpoena with any competent court. It also has the power to preserve, manage, or dispose assets pursuant to a freeze order, preservation order, or judgment of forfeiture.
The law states no court can issue temporary restraining orders or writs of injunction against any asset preservation order, with the exemption of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
Under the new law, the AMLC can also freeze assets and funds from individuals in the UN Security Council’s list of terrorists and their financiers.