By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Lawmakers cited on Monday (March 9) the need to put in place mechanisms to validate the truthfulness of foreign currency declarations.
During the House committee on banks and financial intermediaries’ motu proprio probe into the supposed $370 million in “dirty money” brought in into the country, Quirino 1st district Rep. Junie Cua, panel chairman, said the absence of such mechanisms made possible the easy influx of foreign currency deposits into the country.
“Whether the declaration as to source and the declaration as to purpose are truthful or not, there is no such mechanism, at the moment, that is put in place so that the government will be able to find out where this money is really coming from. It could be money from unlawful sources or proceeds of unlawful activities.
“In other words, if we just take this hook, line and sinker, talagang papasok at papasok ang pera dito (the money will continuously enter the country). I think this the loophole. Unless there is a way we can verify the truthfulness of the declaration, these things will continue to happen. I think this is the reason why we are becoming a haven,” Cua said.
Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero agreed with Cua, admitting that “there is [a] seeming loophole [in the system].”
The BOC top official told the panel they have informed President Duterte about the problem.
He said the BOC sought the “amendments of the existing laws that would empower BOC and other law enforcement agencies to go after individuals who are suspected of using the current systems and processes within the BOC to conduct illicit activities.”
For his part, Muntinlupa lone district Rep. Rozzano “Ruffy” Biazon said, “The gap that we see here is with regard the validating and verifying the declaration.”
“If we are able to put into the place an automatic process, making it sure that what they declare is proper, once they misdeclare, there will be [a] case,” he said.
AMLC asks BSP to amend memo
In the hearing, Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Mel Georgie Racela said they are urging the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to amend its Memorandum Circular No. 308 issued on November 15, 2001.
The circular states that “any person who brings into or out of the Philippines foreign currency in excess of US$10,000 or its equivalent is required to declare the same in writing and to furnish information on the source and purpose of the transport of such currency.”
Racela cited the need to “address the regulatory gaps in terms of the declaration because under the form, the declaration is not under oath.”
“That is why we are pushing for the BSP to amend their circular to make this declaration under oath, so that when they falsely declared then perjury [will be slapped against them],” he added.
He said the AMLC also sought the passage of the Anti-Bulk Cash Smuggling Law.
Anti-Bulk Cash Smuggling Act
In an interview with reporters, Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda said they are eyeing to make “escorting” cash smugglers illegal as part of the criminalization of the conspiracy to smuggle cash.
“If you escort, you will be jailed for one year,” he said, saying they will push for a “more advanced and clearer” Anti-Bulk Cash Smuggling Law.
Salceda and five other lawmakers filed House Bill (HB) No. 6516 or the Anti-Bulk Cash Smuggling Act.
“This one is much better than the U.S. Anti-Bulk Cash Smuggling Law,” he noted.
HB 6516 makes declarations of cash transport amount “under oath,” effectively making misdeclaration perjurious, he said.
The bill also expands AMLC’s powers of surveillance over airports and ports, seeks to deploy AMLC representatives in airports, and aims to develop rapid reporting mechanisms between authorities and AMLC.
It also calls for the civil forfeiture in favor of the Philippines of assets relating to cash smuggling.