No need for special session – senators


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Senators give assurances they will approve bills needed to strengthen the anti-money laundering law

MANILA, Philippines –  Senators said they don’t need to hold a special session to be able to approve urgent bills.

In a conference of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (Gopac) on Friday, March 16, Sen Teofisto Guingona III gave assurances that the Senate next week will be able to pass bills aimed at strengthening the anti-money laundering law.

Congress will go on a long break after March 23 and won’t resume session till the first week of May.

Malacañang earlier considered calling on Congress to hold a special session during the break. The government fears that the country might be blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body tasked to develop and promote policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. It has 34 member countries.

Senate Bill 3009, which allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to inspect bank accounts it deems suspicious even without informing the depositor first, is already at the Senate plenary awaiting second and third reading.

“I think that’s not contentious. That will pass,” said Guingona, one of the bill’s authors.

Pending as well is SB 2676 or the Terrorist Financing Suppression Act, which expands the coverage of the anti-money laundering act to include terrorist financing. “I do not foresee anyone really opposing anti-terrorism financing,” Guingona said.

He acknowledged that the most contentious of the measures is SB 3123, which is at the committee level. It expands the list of agencies and companies that will be required to report financial transactions to the AMLC to include casinos, pre-need companies, and real estate firms, among others.

Doomsday scenario

Guingona and Sen Edgardo Angara see no need to hold a special session to pass the measures.

During the Gopac conference, AMLC executive director Vicente Aquino stressed the adverse effects to the economy if the FATF blacklists the country.

He said it would delay remittances from overseas Filipino workers because countries that are part of FATF would strictly scrutinize and impose higher charges on the transactions.

“If all the member jurisdictions of the FATF and its associate members would gang up on the Philippines, God forbid what would happen to our economy,” Aquino said.

Angara said the Senate will avoid this “doomsday scenario.” – Rappler.com

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