MANILA – Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on Friday indicated willingness to work with legislators anew for the proposed Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) reforms, saying there is a need to safeguard the country against dirty money.
In his speech during the oath-taking of local treasurers and the awarding of the ISO 9001:2015 certification to the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) at the Ayuntamiento Building in Intramuros, Manila, Dominguez cited loopholes on the country’s anti-money laundering law.
Citing news reports, he said foreigners were able to bring into the country million-dollar worth of foreign currency placed in suitcases without any restrictions at the various ports.
He said there is a possibility that holders of the currencies intend to launder the funds in the country or these funds may be utilized by international criminal syndicates or terrorist networks.
“Our laws have no teeth to investigate and prosecute these activities effectively. We don’t have enough tools to know where all this money is going, without being hamstrung by stringent bank secrecy laws,” he added.
Dominguez said it is imperative to amend AMLA, which remains a weak tool against money laundering and other unlawful activities.”
He said they have earlier proposed the amendment of the bank secrecy law to allow the government check bank account of questionable individuals and to include tax evasion and other financial wrongdoings as predicate crimes under AMLA, but these were sidelined by lawmakers.
“This leaves us powerless in going after tax evaders and other criminals using funds for other illegal activities,” he added.
Dominguez said their tax amnesty proposal was green lighted by lawmakers but the President vetoed the approved measure since it does not have the provision on the lifting of bank secrecy.
He said offering a general amnesty must come with the ability to verify whether those who availed of it are not repeating the same violations when evidence points to the likelihood that they are doing so.
“Now more than ever, we are ready to work with the legislature to advocate again for Congressional approval of this crucial measure. We will likewise support the swift passage into law of the amendments to the AMLA to ensure that the Philippines will not be used as a money-laundering site for the proceeds of any unlawful activity,” he added. (PNA)