Senate wants to weaken Bank Secrecy Law
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - March 26, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate is eyeing to weaken the Bank Secrecy Law and strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) in the wake of the laundering in the country of $81 million stolen by suspected Chinese hackers from the Bangladesh central bank.

The twin moves would be the result of an ongoing investigation into the money laundering scandal, according to Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, who sits in the Blue Ribbon Committee that is looking into the controversy.

“We are for weakening the Bank Secrecy Act and strengthening the AMLA. This $81-million laundering case is a big black eye for us before the international community,” he said.

But Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III cautioned senators against their plan to relax the law on the secrecy of bank deposits.

“It might scare away depositors, especially the small savers and those in the underground economy, many of whom do not have the legal papers to support their income. That is why we call them the underground or informal sector. These bank users are a sizeable number,” he said.

“I am for denying protection to those whose accounts are used to hide and launder illegal funds. So the Senate should target only these accounts,” Albano said.

Osmeña said the law guaranteeing the secrecy of bank deposits and transactions was intended to protect depositors.

However, he lamented that bank officers and officials are also using the law to protect themselves.

Osmeña noted that officers of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) have been invoking the Bank Secrecy Law and refusing to talk about the four accounts in its Jupiter, Makati branch that received the stolen Bangladeshi funds.

The refusal of bank officers to reveal details of the accounts is making the job of the Blue Ribbon Committee more difficult, he said.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council has concluded after an investigation that the four accounts were bogus. The depositors could not be located and the addresses they provided turned out to be non-existent.

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