Arroyo Signs Anti-Money Laundering Bill into Law
Kabiling, Genalyn D., Manila Bulletin
Assures it will not be used for harassment President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday signed into law the ''AntiMoney Laundering Act of 2001,'' Republic Act No. 9160, immediately after it was ratified by the two houses of Congress, in time to avoid economic sanctions threatened by Western countries.
The President lauded the Senate and the House of Representatives for the swift passage of the crucial legislative measure that would remove the country from the list of havens for money laundering activities.
Racing to beat today's deadline, the Senate and the House of Representatives approved their separate versions Thursday morning and Friday morning, respectively.
The Bicameral Conference Committee approved the final version of the bill, in a meeting witnessed by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Rafael Buenaventura, Finance Secretary Camacho, and Trade and Industry Secretary Manuel Roxas Friday night just hours before it was sent to the Malacanang for Arroyo's signature.
The President approved the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on House Bill No. 3083 and Senate Bill No. 1745 defining the crime of money laundering and its corresponding penalties.
"May you continue to untiringly serve your country well by enacting measures like this anti-money laundering bill that will work to curb the rise of local and international organized crime groups in the Philippines, and help make our nation a safer and better place for our children and out children's children," she told legislators.
The Congress had been conducting marathon sessions to beat today's deadline to pass the law or expose Philippine financial transactions to sanctions by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
At 5:50 p.m. at the Ceremonial Hall of Malacanang, the President along with Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Jose de Venecia signed the new anti-money laundering law in front of its proponents -- Senators Manuel Villar, Ramon Magsaysay, Loren Legarda, Francis Pangilinan, Robert Barbers, House Speaker Jose De Venecia, Samar Rep. Marcial Libanan, Manila Rep. Jaime Lopez, and Iloilo Rep. Raul Gonzales.
Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, Finance Secretary Jose Camacho, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Rafael Buenaventura, Energy Sec. Vince Perez, Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin also witnessed the signing.
"The law underscores our policy to make the banking system more robust by not allowing the Philippines to be used as a money laundering site either by local or international criminals," the President said.
"It affirms our policy that the country will participate in international efforts to curb money laundering on a global scale," she added.
Under RA 9160, money laundering is a crime where the proceeds of an unlawful activity are transacted, making them appear to have originated from legitimate sources.
"It is hereby declared the policy of the state to protect and preserve the integrity and confidentiality of bank accounts and to ensure that the Philippines shall not be used as money laundering site for the proceeds of any unlawful activity," the law read.
"Consistent with its foreign policy, the state shall extend cooperation in transnational investigations and prosecutions of persons involved in money laundering activities wherever committed," it added.
The new law creates a special Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that will be empowered to freeze bank accounts with suspicious deposits alleged to be proceeds from illegal activities. It will then have 15 days to get a court order to open the accounts to scrutiny.
AMLC shall be composed of the governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as chairman, the commissioner of the Insurance Commission and the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission as members.
In general, bank accounts with less than P4 million will remain off limits to the council. …