House leadership commits to passing AMLA amendment

THE HOUSE leadership committed to passing an amendment to the anti-money laundering law as session resumes this week.

Speaker Lord Allan Q. Velasco said Sunday that the chamber will pass House Bill (HB) No. 6174, which seeks to amend Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).

President Rodrigo R. Duterte certified the bill as urgent on Oct. 16, saying the amendment is necessary to bring the Philippines in compliance “with legal standards for anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing, as established by relevant international bodies.”

Mr. Velasco said the bill needs to be passed to “avoid adverse findings against the country which could raise the costs of financial transactions of overseas Filipino workers and the business sector.”

The bill is now up for second reading approval after it was approved by the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries in March.

HB 6174 and its counterpart version in the Senate were delayed by the pandemic.

Representative Junie E. Cua, who chairs the Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries, has said that the proposed amendments will bring the Philippines in compliance with the requirements set out by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

“It is in compliance with the standards set by the FATF to improve the effectiveness of anti-money laundering laws all over the world, that’s why our proposed amendments also include tax crime as a predicate crime. It is to improve tax collection,” Mr. Cua told BusinessWorld.

HB 6174 authorizes the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) to “preserve, manage and dispose of assets subject to freeze orders” or asset preservation orders and to retain forfeited assets pending turnover to the government.

The measure also strengthens the investigative powers of the AMLAC, particularly its subpoena and contempt powers.

The measure empowers the AMLAC to prohibit courts from issuing temporary restraining orders or writs of injunction in its exercise of freeze and forfeiture powers, with the exception of the appellate court and the Supreme Court.

Mr. Velasco, meanwhile, assured that the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) will be passed by Congress before the year ends to avoid a re-enacted budget next year.

“Making sure the President will be able to sign the 2021 GAB into law before the year ends remains the top priority of the House,” he said. “We are looking forward to the bicameral conference on the 2021 GAB and hopefully, we will be able to ratify the bicam report before Congress adjourns for the holiday.”

Congress only has four weeks left in session before it adjourns on Dec. 19 for a month-long Christmas break. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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