A BILL putting more teeth to the Anti-Money Laundering Law (Amla) has been filed in the Senate to help the country get rid of risks of being blacklisted anew by the international agency Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
In a speech yesterday (Friday) during the general membership meeting of the Chamber of Thrift Banks, Senator Sergio Osmeña III said he was pursuing the tightening of the Amla to fully satisfy the requirements of the FATF, the international body fighting financial crimes.
The Philippines used to be in the FATF?s blacklist but was removed after the Amla was amended in 2003. However, Osmeña said further amendments to the law were needed so that the country could eliminate the risk of being blacklisted again.
?There are many loopholes in the existing law and these should be plugged,? Osmeña said before representatives of more than 50 thrift banks in the country who gathered at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City.
In his bill, which Osmeña filed this month, the definition of ?money laundering? will be expanded and more activities will be considered as money laundering besides depositing ill-gotten money with a bank.
The senator, who chairs the Senate committee on banks and financial institutions, said that under his bill, a person carrying dirty money from abroad would already be committing money laundering if he exchanges the foreign currencies into pesos.
He said the bill also aimed to allow courts to order the scrutiny of bank accounts of people suspected of engaging in illegal activities and to do so even without giving prior notice to the owners of the bank accounts.
If the bill is enacted into law, a bank account of an individual suspected of engaging in illegal activities may be scrutinized even if the account is owned jointly with another person who is not being investigated.
He said one of the weaknesses of the existing law was that it did not allow authorities to investigate a joint bank account if one of the owners was not a suspect.
The senator said the FATF has been urging the Philippines to make the Amla at par with international standards.
Earlier this year, eight countries were placed in the blacklist of the FATF for allegedly failing to cooperate with the international community in the fight against financial crimes. These countries are Angola, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Sao Tome and Principe.
Osmeña said the Philippines should seriously act on the recommendations of the FATF, noting that being in the blacklist has dire repercussions.
Foreign banks may be discouraged from transacting with banks in the Philippines if the country is placed in the blacklist.