MANILA, Philippines (2ND UPDATE) – The Senate ratified on Wednesday, June 6, amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) after the bicameral conference committee rushed to reconcile versions of the bill.
Only Senator Joker Arroyo cast a negative vote against the passage of Senate Bill 3009, which allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to look into bank accounts of suspected money launderers without notifying the depositors.
President Benigno Aquino III is now expected to sign the bill into law.
The ratification came just hours after the bicameral conference committee approved the bill, and a day after the Senate passed the bill on 3rd and final reading. Read the bicam version below:
Yet it remains unclear if the passage of the bill will keep the Philippines from being blacklisted by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The bill is one of 3 required legislations of FATF for the Philippines to avoid being blacklisted. The FATF set a June 21 deadline for the passage of the 3 bills. (Read: Senate caucus; blacklisting feared)
The bill’s principal sponsor, Sen Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, said the Philippines will appeal to FATF.
“Since the Philippine Congress and Senate are showing that we are doing something, we will appeal [to FATF] to delay the blacklisting,” Guingona said in Filipino.
The deadline coincides with a FATF meeting in Rome from June 18 to 22.
The two other required bills have yet to reach the ratification phase. On Wednesday, June 6, 21 senators voted to pass on 3rd and final reading the Terrorist Financing Suppression Act, which Malacañang has certified as urgent. No one objected or abstained.
The other bill seeking to amend the AMLA is still pending at the Senate plenary.
Senators have said a blacklisting will mean overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will have a harder and longer time sending remittances, which buoy the economy.
A blacklist will also affect business because it will make it difficult for money to be sent from and to the Philippines.
Only CA can freeze accounts
The bicameral conference committee adopted almost all provisions of Senate Bill 3009 but dropped one that allowed courts other than the Court of Appeals to freeze bank accounts.
The provision initially aimed to allow AMLC to act faster by having access to more courts that will be able to order the freezing of accounts.
Guingona said though the committee took out the provision after AMLC said that the CA is functioning adequately.
Senators, however, have said that one of the most important provisions of Senate Bill 3009 is that allowing the freezing of court orders without the notice to the depositor.
In a previous interview with Rappler, Guingona said, “It’s just common sense. When they make a notice just to inquire into your bank account, what do people do? Withdraw all their money. So what’s there to freeze?”
The passage of the AMLA amendments has been delayed in large part due to the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Aside from taking time from the deliberations of the bill, the trial also raised fears that the AMLA can be used to harass political enemies of the administration and to violate politicians’ privacy.
Senators Arroyo, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Vicente Sotto III had expressed concern that politicians’ bank information will be leaked and used to malign them.
The sponsors of the bill, Guingona, Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Franklin Drilon have tried to assure them that the bills provide for safeguards to respect the rights of depositors. – Rappler.com