Drilon: Including casinos in AMLA takes will
The next President should have the political will to push for the inclusion of casinos in the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) and resist the pressure from groups opposed to this, Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Saturday.
Drilon, who has backed proposals to strengthen the law, said voters therefore should choose the next leaders of the country who will fight off the lobbyists for the casinos, he said.
“[Amending] the AMLA will need principled leaders with integrity who will not bow to lobbyists. So I hope that when we select our next leaders, we will choose the ones who truly champion good governance and have the people’s interests in their hearts,” Drilon said in a statement.
The exclusion of gambling houses from AMLA coverage was revealed after the Inquirer reported on the alleged laundering of $100 million through local casinos.
This raised concerns the Philippines might be placed on the blacklist by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which would mean higher charges, tighter scrutiny and delays in financial transactions with other countries, particularly for overseas Filipino workers remitting money back home.
“We should strengthen our antimoney laundering law to maintain our good financial standing and safeguard institutions like casinos from becoming a tool for money laundering by criminal elements,” said Drilon, who is running for reelection under the administration Liberal Party.
He noted that much earlier, the FATF had recommended that money changers, foreign exchange firms and casinos be included in the institutions required to report financial transactions.
Congress then amended the AMLA to expand its coverage, but casinos were excluded, Drilon said.
He attributed this to the different Senate and House versions of the bill, with the House version leaving out casinos.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III has explained that casinos had lobbied not to be included in the law because the gambling industry at the time was in its infancy.
Meanwhile, the Senate inquiry into the alleged $100-million money laundering through casinos has been postponed because some of the bank officials invited to the hearing were unavailable, Osmeña said on Saturday.
In a radio interview, he said the hearing has been reset to March 14 from March 8.
Among the officials invited were Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) executives.
The $100 million allegedly entered the country through RCBC’s Makati branch in a transaction handled by one of its branch managers with foreign exchange broker Philrem, the Inquirer had reported.
The funds were converted to pesos and consolidated from five bank accounts into the single corporate account of a businessman running an operation that brought in high rollers from overseas to play in local casinos, sources had told the Inquirer.
An RCBC official had said the bank immediately reported the transaction to the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
Osmeña said a top RCBC official invited to the hearing was in New York and would be unavailable on March 8.
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