Press Release
February 5, 2013

Bill seeking expansion of list of institutions covered by Anti-Money Laundering Council approved

The Senate has approved on final reading a bill seeking to expand the list of covered persons required to report financial transactions to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), a move seen as an important step in generating the necessary political will to bring about the necessary legislative reforms to combat money laundering.

Approved with 15 positive votes, zero negative vote and zero abstentions, Senate Bill No. 3123 aims to expand the list of covered persons to include money-changers, foreign-exchange corporations, and other similar financial establishments. It also seeks to include, among others, pre-need companies, casinos, real-estate brokers, dealers of precious stones and metal dealers, among others.

Those who voted for the approval on the measure included Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, and Senators Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Alan Peter Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, Teofisto "TG" Guingona III, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., Serge Osmeña III, Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., Antonio Trillanes IV, Manuel Villar.

Sponsored by Guingona, Osmeña and Escudero, the bill also enumerates additional predicate crimes such as trafficking in persons, bribery, counterfeiting, fraud and other illegal exactions, malversation, forgery, environmental crimes, and terrorism and its financing.

"This bill serves to reinforce our country's Anti-Money Laundering legislative measures and addresses deficiencies in the Philippines' legal framework with regard to anti-money laundering, as stated by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF)," Guingona said.

According to Guingona, the current law limits the crime of money laundering to the transaction of laundered funds and property, and that the accused must enter into a contract of sale, donation, or similar transactions before he can be made liable.

"With the approval of SBN 3123, we can now go after those who engage in the conversion, transfer, movement, disposal of, possession, use, and concealment or disguise, of the monetary proceeds of a criminal act," Guingona said.

"Terrorists and other criminal elements will do whatever they can to finance their nefarious activities and I understand that this is one of the intents of the amendments - to further limit, if not totally remove, the avenues on how dirty money may be laundered," Enrile said.

"I am glad that the Senate came into agreement on this particular amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act," Enrile added.

Some Senators had questioned the inclusion of the crime of tax evasion as a money-laundering offense, saying that tax evasion with money laundering might be used as a means of political persecution.

With respect to forfeiture of assets, Guingona said the existence of a covered transaction report is no longer sufficient to apply the Revised Rules of Court on Civil Forfeiture, and probable cause must first be determined to prove that "any monetary instrument or property is found to be related to an unlawful activity or a money laundering offense."

Senators also approved an amendment introduced by Enrile requiring casinos, including internet casinos, to report the presence of persons suspected of involvement in money laundering in their premises.

"If there is knowledge or suspicion by the casino management that a person is inside specifically for money laundering, whether he bets P50 or P1 million, there is an obligation to report (him to the Anti-Money Laundering Council)," Enrile said.

Consequently, steeper penalties will be imposed on banks that "knowingly" accept deposits from money launderers.

"The penalty of imprisonment ranging from four to seven years and a fine corresponding to not more than 200 percent of the value of monetary instrument or property laundered shall be imposed upon the covered person, its directors, officers or personnel who knowingly participated in money laundering," the amendment read.

The Senate also proposed increasing the threshold amount for covered transactions involving dealers of precious stones, from P500,000 to P1 million.

"Approval of the bill shows that our country is fully compliant with international standards set forth not only by the FATF, but also the directives laid down under the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, the 2001 United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the 2003 United Nations Convention Against Corruption, and other international standards in combating money laundering," Guingona said.

President Aquino recently signed into law two AMLA related measures: the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act (R.A. No. 10168), which seeks to allow authorities to freeze terrorist funds, and the Anti-Money Laundering Act (R.A. No. 10167) which seeks to allow the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to inquire into bank deposits based on an ex parte application and allow courts other than the Court of Appeals to issue freeze orders. (YVONNE ALMIRANEZ, PRIB)

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