MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has expressed displeasure over what he sees as a threat of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against a sovereign country like the Philippines to push passage of legislation on anti-money laundering.
“Who gave them the idea that they can dictate on government?” he said.
“Who vested them with that power? Who invested this task force that power to say you do this, you do that otherwise we will blacklist you? It is no longer parity among nations, no longer a reciprocity, they are already dictating on us.”
The FATF has called on the Philippines to pass a new round of amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).
The amendments would deal with an expansion of the list of covered institutions and individuals and predicate crimes.
Currently holding a plenary session in Paris, the FATF is expected to review the status of the Philippines on compliance with anti money-laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.
In separate letters to the head of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Amando Tetangco, the FATF and the Asia Pacific Group on Anti-Money Laundering warned that the non-passage of the AMLA amendment bill could result in the inclusion of the Philippines in the list of non-compliant nations or the so-called blacklist.
President Aquino has certified the bill as urgent, and the House of Representatives has approved its version, but the Senate failed to do the same before Congress adjourned for a two-week break last Wednesday.
Enrile said some senators are opposed to the new amendments, so in spite of efforts to pass the bill before the break, their sentiments had to be heard first.
“We will tackle that when we come back,” he said.
“They accuse me of bullying the senators; that should be enough argument to show that I do not bully senators here. I respect the right of everyone to make a decision.”
Enrile said when Congress passed the AMLA between 2001 to 2004, he was not in the Senate.
In passing the law at the time, the intention was to arrest the flow of money to and from drug dealers, terrorism and international and transnational crimes, he added.
The two bills that Congress had approved and signed into law last June were less controversial and understandable, considering that one of them was intended to define terrorist financing and institute measures to stop the flow of money for this purpose, Enrile said.
The FATF had required the AMLA amendment and the anti-terrorist financing laws. They all rushed to avoid the blacklisting at the time.
Enrile said the Senate would work on the current AMLA amendment bill, but not because of the threats from the FATF.
“As a member of the Convention, we will have to comply,” he said.
“But they must not tell us to do this on this given time otherwise we will blacklist you. Otherwise, we are no longer a sovereign country, we are now under the control of a task force over whom we have no say on the selection.
“Those are just threats. Every time we are being threatened. When these people sneeze, it doesn’t mean that we will catch a cold.”