MANILA - Senator Serge Osmeña on Wednesday said the Philippines must now plug the loopholes in its laws that criminals engaged in money laundering take advantage of.

“I think this will at least prod us to consider amendments again to the Anti-Money Laundering Law, which has been the subject of my 15 years in the Senate...Until we are able to align and harmonize our laws with the best practices of international institutions, we’re gonna have to keep on working at it,” Osmeña, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, said in a phone interview on ANC's Dateline.

Though frustrating, he maintained that those who declined to give details about the $81-million money laundering case in the Senate hearing on Tuesday were correct when they cited their rights, and the Senate could not force them to speak.

He was also hopeful that RCBC Jupiter Branch Manager Maia Deguito will cooperate during the executive session scheduled on Thursday.

He also underlined how the Anti-Money Laundering Law (AMLA) and the Bank Secrecy Law were circumvented to pull off the scam.

“The general feel-good excuse is that we’re protecting individual accounts, but in actuality, we are also protecting the dirty money that goes through those accounts. And so the international solution is for authorities to work more closely together that they get warning signs. Now, one of the warning signs that a covered institution must give—and I say must, M-U-S-T, because the casinos were not included as a covered institution—is to report any suspicious transaction. In other words, the transaction was outside of the ordinary, is not subject of any contract, [then] suddenly appears and disappears; and that’s exactly what happened in this case.”

He emphasized the need for the legislators to review the provisions of these laws and to fix its loopholes now that the Philippines and its financial system are thrown into the international spotlight after being involved in this scandal.

“Despite all the warnings from the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), we still don’t have the political will to plug those loopholes. I hope that this will teach us a lesson because the international financial community has just taken notice of how big our loopholes are and it’s become an international incident because hundred million dollars was hacked from the account of Bangladesh Central Bank and laundered through the Philippine financial system.”

However, when asked if he thought the money could still be recovered, Osmeña said no, saying the casino junket to whom the money has been delivered is the “blackhole” they won’t be able to get past.