Lower House approves bill penalizing bulk foreign currency smuggling

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill that would further plug loopholes in the current Anti-Money Laundering Law by penalizing smuggling of foreign currency and other monetary instruments in bulk.

Dollar Smuggling

With 197 affirmative and zero negative votes, the Lower House passed on Monday, Sept. 6, House Bill 8927 entitled “An Act Penalizing the Smuggling of Foreign Currency and Other Monetary Instruments in Bulk Into or Out of the Philippines.” The bill is authored by Reps. Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA), Joey Sarte-Salceda (2nd District, Albay); Ron Salo (Kabayan partylist) and Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon (Lone District, Muntilupa City).

Passage of the “Anti-Bulk Foreign Currency Smuggling Act” came a few months after lawmakers noted that there remains no law that would address money laundering schemes through smuggling of cash into the country such as the one exposed in the Senate by Sen. Richard Gordon.

Gordon initiated a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation into allegations that $210 million in cash was brought recently into the country by foreign syndicates.

Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means,bulk cash smuggling is a serious national security concern.

“Bulk cash smuggling suspected to be in the billions of pesos are enough to shift political fortunes and corrupt institutions in the country, facilitating criem and other illegal activities,” they said in the explanatory notes of the bill.

Four syndicates were identified as being behind the P28.6 billion in foreign currency imported into the country in 2019.

The authors warned that the inability of the country’s financial authorities to act against the smuggling has placed Philippines at risk of being listed from the Financial Action Task Force for being “a high risk base for terrorism financing and money laundering.” HB 6516, in effect, will expand the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundeirng Act of 2001 to include one-time cash transports of more than P500,000 at any one time.

Under the bill, the Anti-Money Laundering Council will be granted the authority to define a cumulation of closely-related events that would constitute “one-time” smuggling of cash.

‘in view of the urgency of the need for a response to the currently unmitigated influx of bulk cash into the Philippines, and given the critical importance of a policy response to the threats that bulk cash smuggling pose for peace and order, national security, and institutional and financial integrity, the immediate enactment of this bill is urgently sought,” authors stressed.

Under the bill mandatory report will be required on a “person or an agent or bailee of a person” if he or she is aware of transporting monetary instruments of over P500,000 or its equivalent currency at one time from a place in the Philippines or thoruhg a place outside the country.

The report should be sent to the AMLC immediately Persons found guilty of intentionally evading the currency reporting requirement shall be deemed guilty of currency smuggling offense.

Penalty for violation of the provisions of the law ranges from seven to 14 years imprisonment and forfeiture of the convicted person’s property within the Philippines. (Ben R. Rosario)