FATF recognizes Senate’s effort; spares PHL from black list

October 22, 2012 10:00 pm 

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Oct. 22 – The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has recognized the efforts of the Philippine Senate to amend the Anti-Money Laundering Act as it spared the country from putting it in the black list.

”We’re lucky. We have been spared,” Senator Sergio Osmena III, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, informed the media on Monday after the Senate inquiry into the allegedly anomalous bridge’s program contracts during the previous administration.

Osmena commended Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Vic Aquino for convincing the FATF that the Philippine Senate is making every effort to pass the amendments under Senate Bill No. 3123, or "An Act Further Strengthening the AMLA."

”He was able to convince the FATF in Paris that we just had a difficult time. We missed six months of legislative work owing to the (former Chief Justice Renato) Corona impeachment trial, so to give us a little more time,” Osmena said.

Osmena, however, warned that the Senate must work together for the passage of the remaining AMLA amendments filed by Osmena and Senator Teofisto Guingona III before the Senate adjourns on Feb. 8, next year, for the midterm election campaign period.

Osmena described the proposed AMLA amendments as “the most traumatic bills that I have ever been through in my entire stay in the Senate.”

He said the most contentious provisions of the proposed AMLA amendments bill are the nine predicate crimes that can be used as basis to freeze the account under scrutiny, and 23 activities.

”I said, the nature of legislature is to bring it on the floor and if we cannot agree, then we have to ask the house to be divided. In other words, we have to take a vote on it…," Osmena said.

”The tax evasion will always be the most contentious predicate crime because under predicate crime, you can freeze the account. The covered activity, you don’t freeze the account. It’s the responsibility of the jeweler or real estate broker to report but you don’t freeze his account because of that. But predicate crime, you can use that as an excuse to freeze the account,” he explained.

The Senate failed to pass SB 3123 before it adjourned for a two-week break last Oct. 17 due to lack of quorum.

Guingona has expressed fears that the FATF might drop the Philippines from grey to black list but Aquino was able to convince FATF to give an extension for the passage of the amendatory measure during the Oct. 17-19 meeting in Hong Kong, Osmena said.

SB 3123 aims to address the country’s AMLA deficiencies by criminalizing money laundering and extending coverage of reporting entities.

Last June, the Senate approved SB 3009 which allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to look into the bank accounts of suspected money launderers without notifying them and SB 3127 which criminalizes the terrorist financing.

As a result of the previous amendments to the AMLA, the FATF placed the Philippines on the “grey” list after previously being on the “dark grey” list from February to June this year.

On Sept. 26, the FATF’s Asia-Pacific Group Executive Secretary Gordon Hook reminded Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. concerning the need for the Philippines to enact SB 3123 to prevent being blacklisted by the FATF-member countries.

The FATF, which has 36 member countries, was established by the G-7 Summit in 1989 in response to mounting concerns over money laundering that may pose threat to the banking system and to financial institutions.

Initially, it was formed to examine and develop measures to combat money laundering. In October 2001, its mandate has been expanded to incorporate efforts to combat terrorist financing. (PNA)

SCS/JFM

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