MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang would have to push for the crucial amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to get it passed when Congress resumes session on January 21 to keep the Philippines out of the blacklist of non-compliant countries that the international regulator Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is set to update early next year.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña, Committee on Banks chairman who is marshaling passage of proposed AMLA reforms with Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, acknowledged that Palace intervention would pave the way for the timely approval of the bill that is meeting strong reservations from fellow lawmakers led by Sen. Joker Arroyo.
During the plenary debates, Arroyo questioned, among other things, why the latest batch of AMLA amendments did not include provisions making erring banks equally liable for money laundering. He cited the case of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. which was fined $1.5 million in the US for allowing an illegal transaction.
Other lawmakers have also expressed misgivings over the proposed inclusion of tax evasion as a predicate crime that would allow the state to freeze and inquire into so-called suspicious accounts, on the ground that it can be used by the state to go after perceived political foes.
“Yes. The Palace is always the key to passing controversial bills,” Osmeña told the BusinessMirror.
He recalled that Malacañang had to step in and secure firm commitments from its allies in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to muster the majority votes needed, first to pass the original AMLA bill and later, its subsequent amendments.
“It took Palace intervention to pass all AMLAs,” said Osmeña.
The senator also said that as in the past, many of the lawmakers “do not like laws that make for transparency.”
Earlier, Osmeña had warned colleagues he would reveal all the names of those who voted against the AMLA reforms, if the Philippines ended up on the FATF blacklist due to the failure of Congress to pass the required amendments.