Press Release
February 21, 2024

Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act (AFASA)

Co-Sponsorship Speech | Sen. Joel Villanueva

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues:

It is my honor and privilege to co-sponsor Senate Bill No. 2560 under Committee Report No. 204, or the Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act. Having filed our own version of the bill, we thank our distinguished sponsor, Senator Mark Villar, for his hard work on this measure, which is one of the priority legislations of this administration.

Because of the pandemic, a huge spotlight was placed on digitalization in the conduct of everyday business. With mobility and face-to-face interactions and activities restricted, many Filipinos turned to online and digital banking methods to conduct their personal and business transactions.

Dahil po dito, Ginoong Pangulo, dumoble na ang dami ng mga Pilipino na nagkaroon ng access sa mga bangko at iba pang electronic money channels. According to the BSP, the number of "banked" population was about 56% of all adults in 2021, up from just 29% in 2019. This is equivalent to about 22 million Filipinos who have acquired access to formal financial accounts in just two years. In 2022, the share of Filipinos with bank accounts has further grown to 65% of the adult population.

However, Mr. President, with the continued evolution of banking and electronic payment methods, fraudulent activities involving bank accounts, e-wallets, and other financial accounts have also increased. In fact, the BSP said that complaints related to the use of internet and mobile banking constitute 45.2% of the total complaints they received in 2021. A staggering 42,456 complaints on financial fraud, account takeover or identity theft, phishing, and other schemes were reported between 2020 and 2021.

Nagiging sopistikado na rin po ang modus ng mga scammer para makapanloko ng kapwa. Noong nakaraang taon, ibinahagi ng isang Facebook user kung paanong tinangkang kuhanan ng P20,000 ang tatay niya dahil umano sa maling numerong sinendan sa GCash. Ang text na natanggap ng tatay niya ay mukha talagang legit na galing sa GCash sa unang tingin. Tapos wala pang isang minuto, may nag-text na sa kanya para bawiin ang P20,000 dahil nga "nagkamali" daw ng padala ng pera. Buti na lang, hindi nagtagumpay ang mga scammer dahil nasuri agad ang pekeng text mula sa GCash.

In addition, Mr. President, one of my own staff, was scammed into buying concert tickets; she was made to believe the tickets were legitimate, hence, she transferred money to the digital bank account of the seller, only to be blocked later by the scammer. We sought the help of the BSP and the destination bank, but unfortunately the funds were already moved as soon as they were received.

Madami rin po tayong natatanggap na mga reklamo mula sa mga nabibiktima ng mga nagpapanggap na representative ng mga bangko na tumatawag para umano sa security updates at hihingin ang mga pribadong impormasyon ng account holders, gaya ng birthdate, address, pangalan ng kanilang nanay, at iba pa, na nag-resulta sa pag-takeover at pag-access ng mga scammer sa accounts ng mga biktima.

Hence, Mr. President, we firmly believe that it is time to pass this very important piece of legislation to protect consumers from falling prey to cybercriminals and criminal syndicates who target financial accounts or lure account holders into perpetrating fraudulent activities, including becoming money mules themselves. We also welcome the provision under the bill that large-scale commission of these crimes shall be declared a form of economic sabotage and a heinous crime and thus will be punishable to the maximum level allowed by law.

We hope, Mr. President, that with this measure, we will finally put a stop to the criminal activities targeting our innocent kababayans and their hard-earned money.

Again, we would like to thank the sponsor of the measure, Senator Mark Villar. We pledge our full support to the passage of this very important bill.

Thank you and may God bless us all.

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