Press Release
January 20, 2021


Mr. President, as chairperson of the Senate contingent to the bicameral conference committee on the proposed amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act, I now have the privilege to report to the body the approved version of the bill.

There were many conflicting provisions between the Senate Bill No. 1945 and House Bill No. 7904, but through the hardwork and perseverance of our colleagues, Senators Recto and Drilon, as Senate conferees, and that of Representatives Cua, Quimbo and Lacson, as House conferees, we were able to reconcile these differences. The bicameral conference committee agreed to use the House version as the working draft, and from there, the common and reconciled provisions were assimilated.

Mr. President, among the agreements settled by the panel are the following:

a. First, the Senate proposal that transactions in excess of P500,000 of all offshore gaming operators or POGOs as well as service providers be included within the purview of AMLA was readily accepted. This shows both the Senate's and the House's commitment in making sure that POGOs and service providers are regulated and are not made as avenues for nefarious activity in the country.

b. Second, real estate brokers and developers are to be included as covered persons but only for single cash transactions involving an amount in excess of P7.5 million. This qualification sufficiently narrows down the burden reportorial requirements to the high-risk transactions that are usually flagged in money laundering regimes.

Additionally, the proposed senate amendment to increase the reporting threshold of the LRA from P500,000 to P5 million has been deleted to retain the current coverage.

c. Third, it was agreed by the parties that the tax crime covered by the amendments shall be limited only to tax evasion as provided under Sec. 254 of the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended. This is in line with the fact that tax evasion or the attempt thereof is the provision most correlated with the crime of money laundering.

d. Fourth, after key negotiations, the panel agreed to provide additional but limited investigative powers to AMLC such as the power to apply for the issuance of a search and seizure warrant before any competent court, as well as the power to apply for the issuance of subpoena with any competent court. This is in adherence to the key recommendation of the FATF/APG while at the same time still maintaining the integrity of the Constitution and our laws.

e. Fifth, the panel has agreed to adopt the Senate proposals related to proliferation-financing of weapons of mass destruction as provided under pertinent UN resolutions. These measures include the addition of certain terms and their definitions; the expansion of "unlawful activities" to include violation of Sec. 19 (3) under the Strategic Trade Management Act; and the concretization of AMLC's power to implement targeted financial sanctions, including ex parte freeze without delay, against those who are financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction related to the UN Resolutions. These are in line not only with the recommendations from FATF/APG, but also from our own commitment as a member of the international community.

f. Sixth, the Senate provision on granting AMLC the additional power to preserve, manage or dispose assets pursuant to a freeze order, preservation order or judgment of forfeiture has been adopted. This provides AMLC with the necessary authority to enact measures that would otherwise prevent the dissipation or depreciation of properties currently under its custody.

g. Seventh, the provision empowering AMLC to enlist the assistance of and/or direct any government agency or office in any anti-money laundering operations has been deleted as this power is already existing under the present provisions of the AMLA.

h. Eight, the Senate and the House panel agreed to adopt the proposed section on information security and confidentiality. This would safeguard any information processed through AMLC, and would deter AMLC staff and personnel from otherwise leaking or misusing information acquired by them by reason of their office.

i. Ninth, the provision on the system of incentives and rewards was deleted by the panel in order to avoid confusion and to curtail possible legal implications from the proposed measure.

j. Tenth, the panel decided to maintain the section on the non-intervention of BIR, with the addition of a new sentence allowing AMLC to coordinate with the BIR on investigations related to Tax Evasion under Sec. 254 of the NIRC, as amended. This amended provision aptly provides for AMLC's ability to pursue investigations in coordination with BIR, while also maintaining AMLC's independence from BIR and vice versa.

k. Finally, 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.

Mr. President, as discussed before, bills pertaining to the amendment of the AMLA have always had a difficult time during plenary primarily because of two seemingly clashing ideals: the virtue of adopting provisions recommended by an international body in order to preserve the country's status as non-haven for money-launderers; and the virtue of preserving our own set of laws and rules away from the influence of these international bodies. It's always been a question of how much or how little we are willing to accommodate, and the price thereof.

The present set of amendments show us that it is possible — as it has always been — to find a middle ground. Through the relentless and skillful pursuit of experts like Senators Drilon and Recto in the Senate panel and of our counterpart in Congress, 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'. Thus, it is my humble submission that this bicameral conference committee report on the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill No. 1945 and House Bill No. 7904 on the amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, as amended, be ratified by this Chamber.

News Latest News Feed