Bill to relax bank secrecy law out next week
MANILA — The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) will finalize by next week a draft bill aimed at relaxing the country’s strict bank secrecy law in order to combat money laundering.
AMLC member and Insurance Commissioner Emmanuel F. Dooc told reporters Thursday that President Aquino has committed to certify the bill as urgent, although he admitted there may no longer be material time to pass the bill before the change in administration by midyear.
Dooc said AMLC met Wednesday night, during which they went through the draft bill. “We should liberalize or relax the bank secrecy law because now it is clear that it is a deterrent or obstacle to address money laundering offences,” he said. Dooc pointed out the senators’ frustration with key personalities invoking the law amid an investigation of the $81 million stolen from Bangladesh’s central bank that ended up in the Philippine financial system and casinos.
All of AMLC members—including its chair Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairperson Teresita J. Herbosa—were amenable to at least relaxing the bank secrecy law, although Dooc said he was pushing for total lifting.
“Now there’s a sense of urgency to review laws with regards money laundering. We need to combat money laundering and terrorist financing because if the international community will not perceive us as doing our homework, the entire country will suffer… Our financial system is at stake,” Dooc said.
However, Dooc admitted chances to have this bill passed within the 16th Congress might be slim. “Some are saying this should be addressed by the 17th Congress. We hope the leadership of the next Congress will be sympathetic to our efforts.”
AMLC is also eyeing to shorten the reporting period for covered and suspicious transactions from 10 days at present to five days, as mandated under the anti-money laundering act (AMLA), Dooc said. “Faster reporting is now doable given modern communications technology,” he pointed out.
Dooc said AMLC was likewise seeking to have its authority to freeze dubious bank accounts strengthened, such as by having the power to impose a cease-and-desist order. SFM
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