THE SENATE has ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act, steered by sponsor Senator Grace Poe.
“We were able to chart a middle course that would help us both maintain our status in the international body while preserving the integrity of our current laws and legal system. These would, in turn, help our economy during these turbulent times of the pandemic, and would especially be beneficial to our OFWs who will be most affected if the country sinks to the ‘grey list’,” said Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies.
The executive department sought the amendments last year for the Philippines to avoid getting greylisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that could result in the exodus of foreign banks and make sending remittances to the country expensive and bothersome. It was the blacklisting of the FATF that prompted the Philippines to pass its first anti-money laundering law in 2001.
“The present set of amendments shows us that it is possible — as it has always been — to find a middle ground,” Poe said, as she thanked Sens. Franklin Drilon and Ralph Recto who were part of the Senate panel and their counterparts in the House.
The Senate ratification comes well ahead of the FATF’s Asia-Pacific Group (APG) meeting this February when anti-money laundering measures of jurisdictions are judged.
Among the provisions that the Senate and House of Representatives have agreed are:
1. Including transactions of POGOs and their service providers in excess of P500,000 as a covered transaction that must be reported to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC);
2. Including real estate brokers and developers as among the covered persons but only for single cash transactions over P7.5 million so as not to unduly burden the AMLC with a huge volume of reports;
3. The addition of tax evasion as among unlawful activities;
4. Giving the AMLC the power to apply for search and seizure warrants as well as subpoenas before the courts;
5. Granting the AMLC additional power to preserve, manage or dispose of assets from a freeze order.
“In the interest of expeditious implementation of this law and in order to meet the deadline as imposed by the FATF/APG, the panel has adopted the present Act’s immediate effectivity upon the completion of its publication. We were given a deadline of February and I am proud to say that the Senate met its obligation,” Poe said.