Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Noy signs amendments to anti-launder law

President Aquino signed into law yesterday two bills aimed to curb money laundering and spare the Philippines from being put on a blacklist by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement that the signing of the two bills was a major step forward in enhancing transparency and accountability.

The two laws signed were the “Act To Further Strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Law” and “The Terrorism Financing Prevention And Suppression Act of 2012.”

“Both will strengthen the capability of government to identify and prevent financial transactions related to illegal activities and those that undermine global security. These qualify as two out of three reforms needed for the country’s compliance with the international standards set by the FATF of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development),” Lacierda said.

“It is likewise an affirmation of the administration’s commitment to accountability and transparency which is a cornerstone of our governance,” he said.

The terrorist financing prevention and suppression bill is one of three measures that the FATF wants the Philippines to pass as a condition for the country to not be put on a blacklist.

Under the bill, any person who provides, collects or uses property or funds to carry out or facilitate the commission of a terrorist act would face long prison term and P500,000 to P1 million in fines. Conspiracy to provide terrorist financing was also included as a crime in the bill. Properties or funds found used for terrorist financing or terrorist acts would be subject to civil forfeiture proceedings.

Congress also passed the amendments to AMLA to allow authorities to examine suspicious accounts upon court order but even without certifying holders of such accounts.

In the final version of the bill strengthening AMLA, only the Court of Appeals is empowered to issue a freeze order on any suspicious monetary instrument or property upon the petition of the Anti-Money Laundering Council or AMLC. The earlier approved version of the Senate also gave the Sandiganbayan the power to issue a freeze order.

Under the approved version, the CA is required to act on a petition of the AMLC within 24 hours from filing, while the individual being probed is allowed to file a motion to lift the freeze order. Only the Supreme Court can issue a temporary restraining order or injunction on the freeze order.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas may check the compliance of a covered institution with the requirements of the AMLA.

The amended bill removes the authority of the BSP to inquire or examine any deposit or investment. Such power exercised by the BSP had stirred a controversy during the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona.

Senators, meanwhile, could not tell if the passage of just two of the three measures would be enough to spare the country from FATF blacklist.

The AMLC would be asked to explain to the FATF the efforts being exerted by the government to address money laundering and terror financing.