TG urges Senate: Don't delay amended AMLA

Posted at 01/28/13 3:37 PM

MANILA - Senator TG Guingona on Monday said Liberal Party (LP) members will meet this week to discuss several issues including a possible change in the Senate leadership.

Guingona said any Senate leadership change should not come at the cost of the passage of pending bills.

"There's a probability, if you change the status quo, there will be a reorganization," Guingona said on ANC's "Headstart."

"There are two possibilities: a reorganization goes on smoothly-- and you might still have time. But what if it doesn't go on smoothly? There's a probability you won't have time to pass important legislation."

With just six session days left before the Senate goes on recess, Guingona hopes senators will set the wrangling aside to give way to the passage of important pieces of legislation.

But he notes the rift among senators should not come at the cost of important pending bills including the amended Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), the Marcos Victims' Compensation Bill, and the National Land Use Code.

Guingona said several amendments to the AMLA, including the expansion of predicate crimes and requiring banks to report both suspicious and covered transactions which exceed the 500-thousand peso threshhold, are meant to address cracks in the law.

He noted the Aman Futures case could very well be under AMLAC's radar.

"AMLAC is already on the case I'm sure. That's swindling. That's one of the predicate crimes covered."

"We are of the opinion that as the law stands today, the banks can be covered; anyone who transacts knowing its laundered funds can be made liable."

Trafficking in people, laws dealing with sexual explotation, child pornography, drug trafficking, kidnapping, murder, and crimes against the environment, including violations to the Fisheries Code and forestry and the Mining Act, illegal mining, as well as the desecration of caves are also covered by the measure.

Under the amended law, casinos, those in the business of forming corporations and deal with precious stones and metals, money changers and money remittance centers will also have to report their transactions.

"We're going to improve casinos as institutions that have to report who came in, who transacted... Right now, it's under PAGCOR. We have to start somewhere... dito, no need to report unless its suspicious."

"Jewelry, precious stones, precious metals dealers will have to start reporting."

"There's an amendment on land purchases. Instead of jewelry, I can buy land. They will have to report now, real estate brokers."

Guingona said failure to pass amendments to the AMLA could have dire consequences on the Philippines and the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

"The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is in charge of monitoring compliance of AMLA, will meet on the second week of February, and if we don't pass this very important piece of legislation, they might, most likely will blacklist us. What does it mean? I think the biggest effect is on our OFWs... We have to use the banking system to send money back home. If you are blacklisted, there is what you call the enhanced scrutiny to make sure the money you are sending is not from criminal proceeds."

Guingona said one of the current provisions prevents the AMLA from being used against candidates during elections.

After years of waiting, Guingona said there is no reason to delay the passage of AMLA amendments any further, adding it could even be passed by Tuesday.

"I want to pass the law, the bill. That's what I want to do. Anything that will hinder that in the next few days, I don't want."

"Last week, I manifested that if no one is around to question it, even if they registered, I will move for a break."