After RCBC mess, Roxas wants tougher anti-money laundering law

Bea Cupin

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After RCBC mess, Roxas wants tougher anti-money laundering law

Alecs Ongcal

The presidential bet warns that if the situation is not addressed, the Philippines might gain a reputation for being a 'money laundering center'

MANILA, Philippines – Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II on Tuesday, March 29, said he would support a stronger anti-money laundering law, as legislators continue to try to make sense of how $81 million in funds from the Bangladesh Bank ended up in the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) and later, in 3 Philippine casinos.

Dito sa money laundering, nakita natin na gumana ‘yung sistema. Subalit hindi sinunod ng bangko ang utos ng Bangko Sentral at ng mga bantay sa money laundering. Bakit sa ibang bansa, nung dumating doon itong perang ito, ay natigil?” Roxas told reporters during a chance interview in Quezon province on Tuesday.

(When it comes to money laundering, the system works. But the banks failed to follow the Central Bank’s orders and laws against money laundering. How come in other countries, when the money came in, it was intercepted?)

So siguro, ang dapat na magpaliwanag dito, ay bakit ‘yung mga bantay ay hindi napigil o natigil ang paglabas nitong perang ito muna?” added Roxas, a former investment banker.

(Maybe what should be explained is why the watchdogs were unable to stop the money from being released.)

The $81 million managed to enter the Philippine banking system and was later released to RCBC clients. The money, which belonged to the Bangladesh central bank, eventually found its way into Philippine casinos.

The Senate is in the middle of a probe into the circumstances surrounding the illegal transfer of funds.

Kung may mga dapat pang paghigpit sa anti-money laundering law, pabor ako diyan. Dapat lamang, dapat lamang. Okay lang na isama ang mga casino diyan,” said Roxas.

(If there’s a need to further tighten anti-money laundering laws, I’m in favor of that. It’s only right. It’s also okay to include casinos.)

Casinos and internet gaming companies are exempted from coverage in a tougher anti-money laundering law that was passed before Congress a few years back. This was done because the House of Representatives and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation had requested so.

But Roxas insisted that while including casinos would be useful, making sure checks and balances in banks are working is more effective.

Remember na kahit pa isinugal itong perang ito sa casino, pumapasok dito ‘yan sa banking system, so captured na ‘yan eh. So adding casinos is not necessarily an additional protection dahil ang pera, hindi naman nagla-landing sa casino… So ‘yung talagang bantay natin, ‘yung first line of defense natin, ay ang ating banking system,” he said.

(Remember that even if you gamble that money away in a casino, it still entered through our banking system, it’s captured. Adding casinos is not necessarily an additional protection because the money doesn’t land in casinos. So that’s what we need to guard, our first line of defense, our banking system.)

Roxas, who was trade and industry chief under two former presidents, warned a reputation for being a “money laundering center” would affect not only the financial sector but industries and the country’s overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Remittances from OFWs could take longer to reach home, explained Roxas, because money coming in and out of the country will be placed under more scrutiny.

Exporters, said Roxas, will also have a hard time for the same reasons.

So this is a national economic issue. Hindi ito financial pages lang. Hindi ito kung iilan lang sa Bangko Sentral lang (This isn’t limited to financial pages. This isn’t limited to the Central Bank),” added Roxas. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.