MANILA - Forty-seven individuals "smuggled" into the country some US$446 million (P22.69 billion) in cash through airports in a span of 5 months, Sen. Richard Gordon said Tuesday, noting that Chinese nationals brought in nearly half of the "illegal money" through commercial flights.
Chinese individuals brought $210 million (P10.5 billion) from September 2019 to February 2020, he said. The rest of the cash were brought in by Filipinos.
"Nakabalot, nasa maleta na punong-puno ng dollars," Gordon told senators as he flashed photos of the money during the plenary.
"One guy came in 47 times... Tuloy-tuloy. It's an assembly line of bringing in millions and millions of dollars," he said.
Under the law, individuals bringing in more than US$10,000 in cash to the Philippines must declare it to authorities.
Individuals who served as carriers of the "illegal" funds came from Hong Kong and Singapore, he said, citing data from the Bureau of Customs.
The money was likely laundered in the country through the purchase of properties and investments in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs), the senator said.
"Puwede mo ibili ng bahay... It can go to crime. I can even finance the Maute [terrorist group]... Puwede ding pang-destabilize yan," he said.
Several government agencies have been "tolerating" the entry of "illegal" funds to the country, Gordon told reporters in a chance interview.
"What raises eyebrows is everyday, merong pumapasok. Every other day, yung taong nagpasok, meron na naman siya 3 days later so talagang masusi ang trabaho," he said.
"[There is] Impunity. Malakas ang loob nila na, 'Kaya ko lahat diyan [sa airport]. May sasalubong sa'kin diyan,'" he said.
"Merong police yan, merong malalaking tao dahil hindi lalabas yang malalaking pera nang walang escort," he said.
Gordon earlier told DZMM that Chinese money launderers have "connections" in the Philippine government.
"I don't think it is being reported. Otherwise, anong ginagawa ng gobyerno (What is the government doing)?" he said.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will conduct an investigation on the matter on March 5, 2020.