Sen. Marcos cites urgency of amending AMLA

Published October 19, 2020, 1:55 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Maria Josefa Imelda “Imee” Marcos warned on Monday that Filipinos would face difficulties in their financial transactions should Congress fail to amend the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).

Senator Imee R. Marcos
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Marcos, in a statement, raised concern that the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) might find that the Philippines has not done enough to curb money laundering when it has completed its one-year observation period this month.

“Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the business and banking communities will bear the brunt of international sanctions, if the FATF calls out the country as a money laundering hotspot,” said the senator, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs.

“International banks may decide to require more identity checks and paperwork or even impose higher transaction rates on Filipino remittances, causing delays in money transfers and making them more costly,” she added.

She said lawmakers must heed President Duterte’s call to amend the AMLA. Duterte last Friday, October 16, certified as urgent Senate Bill No. 1412 and House Bill 6174, both seeking amendments to the AMLA.

“Living and educational expenses of OFW families amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be affected, while investor and lender confidence will weaken as a result. The country’s foreign currency reserves could diminish,” Marcos further warned.

“Indeed, amending the AMLA is a national economic and national security emergency,” she added.

Citing the a report of the FATF, she said the Philippines is fully compliant with only eight of its 40 recommended amendments to the AMLA, while largely compliant with 20, partially with 11, and non-compliant with one.

Marcos had filed a bill similar to the SB No. 1412 filed by Senator Grace Poe, seeking to amend provisions of the AMLA and include the global watcdog’s recommendations to prevent the country’s inclusion in its “grey list” of countries considered high-risk for misuse of the international financial system.

Under her SB No. 1545, she proposed that the Anti-Money Laundering Council be given the power to use investigative and surveillance techniques, subpoena suspects, conduct search and seizure, freeze assets and order their forfeiture, as well as make the agency immune from court injunctions other than those from the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.

Besides compliance with international standards in financial transactions, the Marcos bill also aims to curb terrorist financing in the country by adhering to United Nations Security Council resolutions listing individuals and entities suspected of terrorism.