Press Release
March 16, 2012

Speech of Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III
GOPAC-SEAPAC Philippine Chapter Workshop
16 March 2012, Traders Hotel

Friends, ladies and gentlemen:

I begin by conveying my warmest welcome to the participants in this conference, to our colleagues in the legislature, in the executive and judicial branches of government, and to our guests from other countries.

I am honored to take on the task of updating you today on the status of our country's anti-money laundering legislative initiatives.

For this, I would like to thank Senator Edgardo Angara, one of the most respected lawmakers in this country and an active and passionate supporter of the work of the SEAPAC and the GOPAC.

As Chairperson of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, I have presided over the probe of prominent corruption cases involving, among others, a former president, high ranking officials of the military and the police, and officers of government-owned and controlled corporations.

Through all these investigations, I have realized three things which continue to motivate me to pursue legislative and advocacy measures against corruption:

ONE: Corruption and its first cousin, money laundering, divert funds that have been intended to benefit the people, especially the poor, and direct these same funds to someone's personal bank account.

In effect, it prejudices the country's ability to provide the necessary funds for its identified social and economic priorities.

TWO: Corruption creates perception-- negative perception against the credibility of the entire country, its institutions, and its businesses.

This negative perception creates a hesitation for investors to bring in their money to the country.

A country perceived to be corrupt is likewise perceived as unsafe, unpredictable, and unreliable as an investment destination.

THIRD: Corruption evolves: both in its nature and its ways. The mind of a crook continues to diversify the crook's schemes to hide unlawfully acquired funds and properties.

With this three realizations in mind, allow me to answer, as a legislator, the question posed by the organizers of this conference: What is the Philippines doing to address money laundering and corruption?

I am proud to be the sponsor of three legislative measures pending before the Senate today: two bills seek to amend the current Anti-Money Laundering Act of the Philippines and one bill seeks to criminalize terrorist financing. With these bills, I am obliged to tell you what we intend to achieve:

Objective Number 1: We wish to allow our financial intelligence unit, the Anti-Money Laundering Council, to INQUIRE into bank deposits through a court order issued EX PARTE.

Simply put, we want bank inquiries to be done without first informing the owner of the account. Otherwise, as aptly described by a former member of the Philippine Supreme Court: "Notifying the bank account holder of a bank inquiry is equivalent to telling a thief to hide his loot lest the police discover and seize it."

The words of Artemio Panganiban, former Supreme Court Chief Justice-- who is likewise with us today. Good morning, Chief Justice Panganiban.

This is Senate Bill No. 3009 which likewise seeks to allow the AMLC to inquire into RELATED WEB OF ACCOUNTS or other accounts and funds which are materially linked to accounts questioned or investigated for money laundering.

Objective Number 2: With the realization that the nature and ways of corruption and money laundering are constantly evolving, we likewise wish to further strengthen and expand the Philippines' Anti-Money Laundering Act through the following provisions in Senate Bill No. 3123.

ONE: Expanding the definition of money laundering. The current law limits the punishable act to the transaction of laundered funds and property. This means that the accused must enter into a contract of sale, donation, or similar transactions before he can be made liable.

Our proposed amendment seeks to likewise punish "conversion, transfer, movement, disposal of, possession, use, and concealment or disguise" of the monetary proceeds of a criminal act.

TWO: Expanding the list of COVERED INSTITUTIONS AND INDIVIDUALS or those who are required to submit covered and suspicion transaction reports.

This is in recognition of the fact that money, nowadays, is not only laundered through banks but also through a whole gamut of institutions which will now be covered by our proposed amendments: foreign exchange corporations, money changers, remittance centers and similar establishments, pre-need companies, casinos including those which operate online gaming, real estate agents, dealers in precious stones and metals, and several others.

We are expanding the list because we know that as we tighten the noose on those using the formal banking system to launder ill-gotten funds, they have begun to look at other tools in which they can park such funds.

It looks like from simple money laundering, they are now resorting to dry cleaning them too.

THREE: Adding predicate offenses to the offense of money laundering to include, among others, bribery, plunder, and acts of corruption punished by our Revised Penal Code.

Objective Number 3: We likewise wish to criminalize terrorist financing through Senate Bill 3127- Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act, authored by Senator Angara- and which I have the honor to sponsor and defend in the debates at the Senate.

This is one major step to thwart terrorism by slashing its ultimate lifeline- financing. This is also among the bills certified as urgent by President Aquino.

Furthermore, this proposal seeks to penalize any person who DEALS with properties or funds owned or controlled by terrorist organizations or those funds and properties that have been sequestered under the Human Security Act.

These bills are pending in the Senate and we are doing everything humanly possible to make sure that these bills are passed into law at the soonest possible time.

The public is aware that the Senate sits as an Impeachment Court every afternoon, Mondays to Thursdays. However, what the public may not know is that the Senate devotes the mornings of those days to proceed with our sessions, committee hearings, and plenary debates.

Our advocacy against money laundering and corruption is a continuing advocacy and we will do our best to ensure that these bills become laws at the soonest possible time.

We are aware of the necessity and the urgency of doing so. We value our commitments to the international community and appreciate the importance it has placed on curbing corruption and terrorism.

That commitment is foremost in our minds as we hammer out the final versions of these pieces of legislation.

To everyone here today: corruption is a common burden AND challenge. It is difficult to find funds or properties that are hidden by determined crooks.

However, we cannot sit idly by and do nothing. This is perhaps the reason why we are all here today: to do our job and to do it right.

Thank you and good day.

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