AMLA amendment deadline looms

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 17 2012 09:58 PM | Updated as of May 20 2012 01:55 AM

MANILA, Philippines -  Time is running out for the Philippines to amend the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), as the end-of-May deadline set by an international task force approaches.

Experts warn that there will be consequences if the measure is not passed on time.

The country's millions of overseas Filipino workers and the business sector may become casualties if Congress  fails to amend the AMLA.

The International Financial Action Task Force is pushing for a wider coverage of transactions that can be looked into by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

Currently limited to banking deals, it wants to expand AMLC's power to cover money changers, casinos, real estate agents, remittance centers and businesses engaged in trading precious metals.

The problem is, the legislation is now caught in the web of the impeachment trial.

Several senators are questioning the vast powers of the Ombudsman who got bank records of the chief justice from the AMLC.

According to the supporters of the bill, time is running out as the task force has given the country only until end of May to pass the measure.

If the bill is not approved, experts say there may be difficulty in sending or receiving money from overseas.

"Iyung payment ng remittance will be subject to delay. Iyung sa business side naman, imports at exports," said Dante Fuentes, president of the Association of Bank Compliance Officers.

The international task force also wants the Philippines to re-define money laundering.

While the crime can currently be established through bank transactions, the task force proposes that  mere possession of dirty money is already money laundering.

However, experts say legislators must balance  the drive against criminality and the country's social environment.

"If we follow it kasi, de kahon na ang buhay mo, de numero na lahat kaya dapat may flexibility rin," Fuentes said.

Supporters of the bill insist that a stronger AMLA will not be a problem if one's wealth comes from legitimate sources. - report from Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News; ANC