Is an anti-scam law enough to stop online financial crimes? Senate prospects weigh in


Posted at Dec 15 2021 02:50 AM

’Sino SENyo?’ gathers senatorial aspirants to share their thoughts on important national issues ahead of the 2022 elections. It airs on Teleradyo’s ‘SRO’ program on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

MANILA—At least 3 senate hopefuls are against passing a new law to look into online scams, saying there are other options to prevent such crimes.

Re-electionist Senator Richard Gordon of the Bagumbayan Volunteers for a New Philippines Party said there were already so many laws, but the problem was enforcement. 

"Butas ang batas, hindi ini-enforce. Ang dami nating batas, hindi naman ini-enforce," Gordon said during TeleRadyo's "Sino SENyo?" forum. 

"Pwede diyan estafa, pwedeng swindling. At nakalagay sa gobyerno natin na meron tayo ’yung babayaran ka, may insurance ’yung PDIC."

(The law is ineffective because it is not being enforced. We have so many laws like that. You can charge them with estafa, with swindling. And the government can also pay you with insurance from the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation.) 

He said it was up to banks to not only pay clients victimized by scams, but also to figure out ways to catch perpetrators. 

Other senate bets on "SinoSENyo?" were tribal leader and rights advocate Junbert Guigayuma from Labor Party Philippines, former Tawi-Tawi governor and Workers and Peasant Party member Shariff Ibrahim Albani, and former Philippine National Police chief Guillermo Eleazar of Partido Reporma. 

Eleazar expressed opposition to a potential bill, saying the government should instead focus on strengthening the PNP's capabilities.

" ’Yung ating operational capacity-building, sinusulong naman ’yan pero hinahangad natin na mapalakas pa ang capabilidad pa ng ating PNP," he said. 

"Minsan kasi parang ang solusyon natin dagdagan ang pulis, pero hindi dapat. Ang solusyon is dagdagan ang pulis, kung hindi pagalingin ang mga pulis." 

(We're working on our operational capacity-building, but we're really hoping for the capabilities of the PNP to be improved. It's as if our solution is get more police officers when that shouldn't be. It should be improve our police officers.)

For Albani, the country should quickly adopt blockchain technology and smart contracts so that financial transactions in the country are secured. 

Smart contracts are programs that will automatically execute an agreement between both parties using blockchain. 

"The only sovereign country that has no system is itong bansa natin," he said. "Sa ibang bansa, bihira sila mapapasukan ng mga scam o kaya mga hacking doon sa kanila." 

(The only sovereign country that has no system is our country. In other countries, they rarely get hit by scams or hacking.) 

Guigayuma said he wanted to push for "enhancing" existing laws against scammers. 

"Bago lang po nabibiktima ’yung mga katribo ko," he said. "Pabor po ako sa batas na mage-enhance sa tinatawag na Anti-Scam law."

(Some of my fellow tribe members also fell victim to scams. I am in favor of a law that will enhance the so-called Anti-Scam Law.)

Their comments came following a string of unauthorized withdrawals hit clients of local bank BDO Unibank over the weekend. Many BDO depositors alleged their funds were withdrawn without their knowledge. 

The bank said it has begun reimbursing 700 clients due to the fraudulent activity. It was also investigating the matter with Unionbank. 

Philippine Central Bank Governor Benjamin Diokno meanwhile said that the cyber criminals behind the incident should be prosecuted to the full extent allowed by law.