One hot issue in business in this new year is the choice of the motorbiking Duterte Harley for governor of the central bank—the powerful Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
Speculations burst in media lately, perhaps because the President refused to drop a hint on his possible choice, with the term of BSP governor Armando Tetangco Jr. ending this July.
To be sure, anticipation has gripped the business community. The BSP oversees the entire banking system with its P13 trillion plus in resources!
Quoting unidentified “sources,” reports nevertheless indicated that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III would still go for the 64-year-old Tetangco, which would make him the reigning BSP boss for 18 years—nonstop.
Still, Duterte Harley recently ranted against the BSP, acknowledged in business as the lead agency in the anti-money laundering drive of the government.
Duterte Harley deplored the Anti-Money Laundering Council, or the AMLC, for its uselessness in the fight against illegal drugs and corruption.
“You guys there are all corrupt,” he told the entire AMLC. “I will bring you down.”
Indeed, the AMLC never really earned the respect of the business sector, because in the past 15 years, what happened in the AMLC just stayed in the AMLC.
And now one Cabinet member wants some BSP “insider” to continue doing the same thing?
With the ongoing campaign of Duterte Harley against corruption and illegal drugs, one big problem of the BSP and its turf, the entire banking system, will still be unrestricted money laundering.
The money laundering case that victimized the central bank of Bangladesh remains a huge blackeye to the AMLC and the BSP as supervisor of the banking sector.
Why do you think the BSP imposed some nasty fine of P1 billion on a bank?
Now two major laws already cover money laundering, namely RA 9160, or the Anti Money Laundering Act of 2001, and RA 10168, or the Terrorism Financing Suppression Act of 2012.
How many cases did the AMLC file with the Ombudsman or the DOJ?
Well, one report by the COA some years ago noted some 83 cases, although not a single one actually prospered.
The BSP, plus its ward the AMLC, or even their concurrent boss, Tetangco himself, of course just moaned about the strict bank secrecy law for their failure.
Yet they did not have such a lame excuse in the “freezing” of hundreds of bank accounts in the cases involving former Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family, or former Trade and Industry Minister Robert Ongpin, or Janet Lim Napoles.
Miraculously, the AMLC worked with the “strict” banking laws in those cases.
Now, ever watchful of money laundering in international banking, the US State Department noted in its 2014 report the “small number of prosecutions” in the Philippines.
In its 2016 report, entitled “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report,” it noted that the Philippines was not a regional financial center.
Yet money laundering remained a “serious concern.”
Minus the diplomatic terms, it meant that it continued to watch money laundering here coming from illegal drugs and corruption.
For one, it said that organized criminal groups like the “Hong Kong triads” used the Philippines as a “transit country” for drugs, even laundering the drug money through the banking system and the casinos.
It said that Chinese triads had already infiltrated the casinos, thus also facilitating prostitution and drug trafficking.
“The Philippine casino industry is a weak link,” noted the 2016 report.
Of course the government-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., or Pagcor, was always on top of the casino business.
Not surprisingly, word went around in business that, this time, Duterte Harley just might need a veteran banker to clean up all the mess.
According to the group called Global Financial Integrity, the Philippines was No. 8 in the world in money laundering through undervaluation of imports.
Uh-oh—will some banker please come forward and lend Duterte Harley his expertise in international trade finance?
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