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Senate panel includes casinos in AMLA to fortify law

By Office of Senator Escudero
December 1, 2016

PASAY CITY – The Senate is giving more teeth to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) by amending its current provisions to include the casino industry under the scrutiny of the law.

Senator Chiz Escudero, chairman of the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies which is sponsoring the measure, said a panel report to further amend Republic Act No. 9160 or AMLA of 2001 has already been filed and is due for sponsorship on Monday next week.

The inclusion of casinos in the AMLA coverage is one of the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism watchdog, to avoid the potential blacklisting of the Philippines.

Senate Committee Report No. 13, however, has now expanded its coverage to include casinos as part of the reporting bodies to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which was left out in the amendments made in 2012.

Escudero said the country is rushing to comply with prescribed global legal and regulatory framework on anti-money laundering before FATF’s assessment of the country in June next year. The Philippines was last assessed three years ago by the international body, which noted strong concerns on the exclusion of the casino sector from the law.

In the amended act, the cash threshold for any covered transactions is now anything exceeding P500,000.00 or US$10,000.00 or other equivalent monetary instrument. Also covered by the expanded law are money services business or money transfer companies, dealers of precious stones, jewels and metals, dealers of high-value items or goods and real estate developers, brokers and sales agents.

“We are talking of dealers or those entities, like lawyers and accountants acting in behalf of clients whenever they receive cash for profit or gains, exceeding P500, 000.00. So if they don’t want to be covered by the AMLA law, then they should transact or act in behalf of their clients with checks, not cash. Then again, checks are already covered by the reportorial requirements of banks under AMLA,” Escudero said.

Considered high-value items under the measure are the following goods or items which value exceeds one million pesos (P1,000,000.00): motor vehicles, including land, air and water vehicles; art and antiques; and other luxury items such as jewelry, watches and bags.

“We put a generic and catch all terms. In the original act, it simply states jewelry, with 50 percent of its value coming from the precious stone used. But this is ambiguous and evasive, what if you are paying for the luxury brand itself and not the stones? Then that’s already left out. There are strong calls to include luxury car dealers, but those who deal choppers and planes and yachts will also be left out, so we phrased the inclusion as high-value goods to cover all,” the senator pointed out.

C.R. No. 13 also strengthens the power of AMLC to investigate motu propio or upon the request of appropriate departments or agencies transactions deemed suspicious for possible money laundering-activities.

It is already being empowered to file, directly through the Office of the Solicitor General, before the Court of Appeals petition for a freeze order against any monetary instrument or property deemed laundered.

The AMLC can also already subpoena any person and compel his/her attendance to produce information for verification and investigation in compliance with AMLA.

Escudero scored the importance of complying with the country’s commitments to the FATF action plans and to earn its approval after its review next year as millions of our overseas workers will be the front liners to receive the impact of a positive or negative review.

“We are rushing to sponsor this and hopefully pass the measure first quarter next year, to comply in time for the review. Otherwise, global remittances of our millions of overseas workers will go through scrutiny and difficulties,” Escudero said.

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