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Senate pushes for stronger AMLA

SENATOR Grace Poe on Wednesday said the committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies will act with dispatch on the amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) while ensuring thorough and transparent deliberation.

“It is imperative to have the means in law to better combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the financial system,” said Poe, the chairperson of the Senate panel, after Malacanang certified as urgent the bill amending the AMLA.

“A healthy financial system will have the capacity to absorb the impact of events such as the COVID-19 pandemic that heavily disrupted economic activities and displaced thousands of workers from their source of living,” Poe added.

The senator said discussions on the pending bills to amend AMLA will proceed with urgency, but without foregoing meticulousness and transparency to guarantee that the new version of the law will balance the interests of all concerned sectors.

Poe’s Senate Bill No. 1412 is one of the proposed measures filed seeking to further strengthen the AMLA or Republic Act No. 9160.

The bill, among others, proposes the inclusion of real estate developers and brokers as covered persons; inclusion of tax crimes and violation of the Strategic Trade Management Act which indirectly includes proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as predicate offenses to money laundering; enhancement of the investigative powers of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC); authorization of the AMLC to implement “targeted financial sanctions” on proliferation financing; prohibition on the issuance of injunctive relief against freeze orders and forfeiture proceedings; and authorization of the AMLC to preserve, manage or dispose assets subject of asset preservation order and judgment forfeiture.

The AMLC earlier warned that if the Philippines fails to pass the amendments and demonstrate effective implementation, the country will be under the danger of being “grey-listed”.

“Grey listing” of the Philippines would mean that: (a) the European Union will impose “enhanced due diligence” (EDD) on Filipino nationals and businesses; (b) EDD will entail additional cost and paperwork; (c) there will be higher interest rates/processing fees; (d) there will be higher cost of remittance for OFWs; (e) the Philippines will incur a “reputational risk” that would result in reduced investor and lender confidence; (f) there could be a decline in the GDP growth of the Philippines; and (g) there would be a setback in the country’s efforts to achieve an “A” credit rating before 2022; among others.

“The above-cited consequences of being ‘grey-listed’ by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) would surely have a negative impact not just on our OFWs, Filipino nationals and businesses abroad, but also on our country’s economy,” Poe said in her bill.

“We need to up our defenses against the evolving threats of financial crimes. A stronger AMLA will help ensure that perpetrators shall have nowhere to hide,” she added.

The FATF has extended the deadline for its observation period from October 2020 to February 2021 due to the global crisis, saying that the pandemic made it “impossible for assessed jurisdictions and assessors alike to conduct on-site visits and in-person meetings.”

Publication Source :    People's Journal
Marlon Purificacion
Journalist At Large