EDITORIAL - Next step: Legislation
() - September 29, 2010 - 12:00am

After all those revelations about jueteng operations at the Senate, what comes next? Ideally, criminal charges should have been filed against those tagged as jueteng operators and recipients of gambling payoffs. But because no evidence was presented at the hearings, no one has been indicted, and everyone simply denied the accusations and demanded proof.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue at least has announced it has initiated lifestyle checks on several of those identified at the hearings, for possible prosecution for tax evasion. The BIR should start with those who have been linked for years to the illegal numbers game but never successfully prosecuted. That failure has made some of them brazen enough to portray themselves as philanthropists and openly brag that jueteng has provided livelihood to their communities.

What is expected of the Senate is legislation, which was what the hearings were supposed to be about. What type of legislation? The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has several proposals, which have waited for congressional approval for nine years now. These proposals could work better than any exposé without solid evidence in discouraging corruption arising from jueteng. The proposals all aim to give more teeth to the Anti-Money Laundering Act or AMLA.

Unless there is truth to rumors that several lawmakers themselves are engaged in money laundering, there should be no virulent congressional opposition to the proposals. Among other things, the BSP and the Anti-Money Laundering Council or AMLC want to expand the number of predicate crimes covered by AMLA, to include illegal dealings in precious stones and metals, real estate, casinos and online gambling.

The BSP also wants legislation that will overturn a Supreme Court order requiring the AMLC to first alert the subject of a money laundering probe before a court order can be obtained to look into bank accounts. That requirement, which defeats the purpose of the AMLA, could have been pushed only by money launderers themselves and issued by a compliant court.

The AMLA was passed in 2001 after the Philippines was included in an international blacklist of money laundering havens. But there are still enough loopholes in the law, which are exploited by the corrupt, by smugglers, tax evaders and jueteng lords. If that Senate probe was truly in aid of legislation, the BSP and AMLC have piled enough proposals on the congressional plate for consideration.

AMLA ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING ACT ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING COUNCIL BANGKO SENTRAL BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE JUETENG LAUNDERING MONEY PILIPINAS PROPOSALS SUPREME COURT
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