Senate OKs bill adding teeth to AMLA

Published December 16, 2020, 9:40 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate approved on second reading Wednesday night the bill that would strengthen the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), as recommended by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senate Bill No. 1945, however, would have hurdled the upper chamber on third and final reading before Congress’ adjournment if President Duterte’s certification of the measure did not include “conditions”. 

During their plenary session, senators raised concern over the proposals provided by Malacañang in certifying the bill as urgent.

Specifically, Duterte wanted the Senate to keep the provisions approved by the House of Representatives in their House Bill No. 7904, such as the proposed reduction of the threshold for tax crime to P20 million, the reporting threshold for real estate transactions, and grant of the requested additional investigative powers to the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The conditions spelled out in the certification would violate the separation of powers between the executive and legislative department, senators said.

But before its approval of the bill, the Senate, among others, decided to amend the bill to reduce the threshold for violations of tax laws from the P50 million that the Senate banks committee had proposed, to P25 million.

Administration ally Sen. Francis Tolentino pushed for its reduction to P20 million, although he explained that this was not to satisfy Duterte’s condition. 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, the proponent behind the initial threshold suggested, agreed to set it at P25 million, as well as Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of Senate banks committee and sponsor of the bill.

Senators also removed the proposal to include real estate brokers and developers involved in cash transactions amounting to P5 million in the persons covered by the law.

They also adopted Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s proposed amendment to include a provision that would provide for an incentive and reward mechanism for informants and agencies whose investigation would lead to the successful prosecution of suspected violators.

The Senate is expected to approve SB No. 1945 on third and final reading when it resumes sessions on January 18, 2021.

Senators agreed to just settle the conflicting provisions of their bill to the version approved by the House during the bicameral conference committee.