House okays bill giving more teeth to anti-money laundering law

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    THE House of Representatives on Wednesday night approved on final reading a Palace-backed bill which seeks to strengthen the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001.

    President Duterte has said in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) that it is necessary for the country “to comply with legal standards for anti-money laundering and countering terrorism financing.”

    Congressmen voted 213-7 with three abstentions in favor of House Bill No. 7904, which amends the AMLA of 2001 and the Revised Penal Code “to protect and preserve the integrity and confidentiality of bank accounts” and ensure that the country will not be used as a venue for money laundering activities.

    It also aims to enforce targeted financial transactions against “financing and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and financing of terrorism.”

    With HB 7904, the scope of predicate offenses under the current AMLA is expanded to include “tax crimes and violations of the Strategic Trade Management Act on the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

    The bill empowers the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to implement targeted financial sanctions, including the ex-parte freezing of funds and assets belonging to individuals or entities designated and listed under the United Nations resolutions relating to the “prevention, suppression, and disruption of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

    The body is also authorized to “preserve, manage, and dispose” of assets that are subject to freeze orders or asset preservation orders and to retain forfeited assets pending its turnover to the government.

    Except for the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, the bill also prohibits trial courts from issuing temporary restraining orders or writs of injunction against the AMLC while it exercises its freeze and forfeiture powers.