A new bill amending the anti-money laundering law is seeking to give more teeth to the Anti-Money Laundering Council including the power to freeze bank accounts and subpoena any person to produce information for verification and investigation.
The AMLC is currently allowed to file directly a petition for a freeze order through the Office of the Solicitor General before the Court of Appeals.
Under the new bill, the AMLC may issue an ex parte freeze order on monetary instruments or properties alleged to be proceeds of unlawful activities not exceeding 30 days motu propio.
The report by the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions, and Currencies also hopes to strengthen the power of the council to investigate motu propio or upon the request of appropriate departments or agencies transactions deemed suspicious for possible money laundering-activities.
"Ang problema namin is alam na ng buong bayan, let’s say na-dyaryo, na-media na nag-nakaw si ganito, may pera si ganito—walang magawa ang AMLC," Senate Committee Chair Francis Escudero told ANC's Headstart Monday.
The bill also proposes that the AMLC retain 20% of the total assets forfeited "less the cost of litigation, taxes, local and national, and other related expenses," so long as it does not exceed double the higher budget appropriation for the AMLC in the two preceding years.
"It goes to the AMLC itself, not for benefits, but for them to be able to do and carry out their job better and more efficiently," said Escudero.
This would not be the first try to pass a law of this nature since similar proposals were vetoed by the previous administration, the senator said. "In this case, we’re trying to propose it again and we’ll see if President Duterte will not veto it."
The Philippines is rushing to comply with prescribed global legal and regulatory on anti-money laundering before the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) assessment in June next year.
The country was last assessed three years ago by the global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism watchdog, which noted strong concerns on the exclusion of the casino sector from the law.
Escudero emphasized not only will an "unfavorable recommendation" affect money from foreign direct investors, but millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will also be affected in case of a negative review because their remittances will have to go through tougher scrutiny.
"It will affect the country because money will not flow as easily into the country from direct investors and they may even give our OFWs a hard time insofar as remitting their money is concerned by subjecting these monies to so many inquiries and questions if we are in the blacklist," he said.