AMLC head quits
Julia Bacay-Abad has resigned as executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), an expected fallout from President Duterte’s frequent tirades against the agency.
No reason has been given thus far and only the most senior levels of the bureaucracy are aware of the high-profile departure, but the Inquirer has confirmed the resignation, which was submitted just before the weekend, with the highest echelons of the government’s economic team.
Inquirer sources said it would not be a surprise if the real reason for her departure—apart from the standard “health and family” line—would have something to do with the rumored low morale at the agency, which takes a hit every time the President castigated its officials—though unnamed—during his speeches.
Abad’s departure comes at an awkward time since AMLC is now, more than ever, saddled with an increasingly heavy workload in the wake of last year’s $81-million Bangladesh money-laundering caper—the biggest cyberheist case to hit Philippine shores.
It goes without saying, of course, that that incident was not AMLC’s finest hour since the illicit funds was able to enter the local financial system (due in no small measure to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.’s role in the transaction) and the very same funds slipped through the fingers of authorities.
Cases were filed against some suspects and these remain still pending in court.
Nowadays, AMLC is also swamped with more suspicious transaction reports from banks and financial institutions, which have tightened processes—afraid of regulatory sanctions—in the wake of the money laundering scandal.
Most importantly, Abad’s resignation comes only months before Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. ends his term of office and his concurrent chairmanship of the three-member AMLC board.
At the same time, the Anti-Money Laundering Act is also being reviewed by Congress for possible amendments to give the agency more teeth in going after criminals.
All these factors create a confluence of circumstances that make it more challenging to police the Philippine financial system at a time when financial crimes and malfeasance are on the rise, especially from emerging cyberthreats.
But the biggest question in the wake of Abad’s resignation is: How will policymakers rebuild AMLC to make it more effective in its role?
President Duterte has remained upset over supposed AMLC leaks of his bank account details to opposing politicians during last year’s presidential campaign and its supposed failure to get to the bottom of the controversy in its aftermath.
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