Noy won't call special session on AMLA

- Delon Porcalla () - March 20, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino hinted over the weekend that he would not call for a special session of Congress to amend the existing law and come out with a stronger Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to avoid a blacklist by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

He told Malacañang reporters in Baguio City that this bill has been included in the list of more than 10 priority measures that the government has turned over to the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

“That’s already part of the LEDAC. We have already asked them (senators and House members) to expedite the whole process. There are many weaknesses in the current law that inhibits the Anti-Money Laundering Council from fulfilling its job,” Aquino said.

Aquino was concerned with the prospect of the Philippines being tagged in FATF’s gray list of countries that are deemed havens of so-called dirty money, particularly now that more foreign investors are coming to the country.

“We don’t want to get to that point, especially given the fact that there is so much interest economically in the country, which will be hampered if there are sanctions imposed on us in dealing with the world financial market,” he said.

The President refused to say, however, if the Philippines will be able to beat the May 2012 deadline in order not to be blacklisted by FATF. 

“It’s difficult to talk on their (Congress) behalf as they might say I’m intruding into their turf. We look up to them (lawmakers) as partners who know the gravity of the situation and the importance of this measure. I think there has been more discussion on other measures rather than that, there’s more agreement on strengthening the AMLA,” he said.

The FATF has warned that should there not be any amendments to the AMLA by May this year, then the international community will be forced to blacklist the Philippines due to suspicions that the country is a haven of dirty money.

Malacañang said that the Senate leadership should decide if the senators would pass a stronger Anti-Money Laundering Act and avoid a blacklisting by the FATF.

In an interview over state-run radio dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said she saw no problem with the Senate being busy with the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, especially because they have been informed beforehand of the issue. 

“We are still hoping that the amendments would be passed and we will leave that to the Senate. We know that they are very well aware of the deadline also. We leave that to the Senate to act on it,” Valte said. Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. has already briefed Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on the repercussions if amendments to the AMLA are not acted upon, which might result in the FATF blacklist.

Valte could not give a categorical answer, however, whether a special session may still be called for the purpose of passing an AMLA law that will have more teeth. 

“As I said last week, I need to consult with the ES on this,” she said.

She said Ochoa had conveyed the government’s concern to lawmakers. 

“As to the four remaining session days, we believe that the Senate already is aware of the concerns and that they will ensure that these measures will be passed on time,” she said. “We are hoping that these (AMLA amendments) will be acted upon.”

No discussions have yet been made on whether a special session would be needed to ensure the passage of the amendments, she added.

The House of Representatives has approved a bill seeking to amend the AMLA to strengthen the government’s campaign against dirty money. House Bill 4275 expands the definition of money laundering and the list of crimes and institutions covered by the law.

The present law defines money laundering as a “crime whereby the proceeds of an unlawful activity are transacted, thereby making them appear to have originated from legitimate sources.”

Under the new bill, the crime of money laundering would be committed when proceeds from an illegal activity “are transacted, converted, transferred, disposed of, moved, acquired, possessed, used, concealed or disguised, thereby making them appear to have originated from legitimate sources.” 

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