At the very least, the AMLA needs dentures
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-10-12
Atty. Richard Funk II of the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had a very enlightening discussion regarding the deficiencies of the Anti Money Laundering Law (AMLA) during a recent Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the illegal numbers racket, better known as jueteng.

Ever the astute lawyer, Senator Enrile fully appreciated the potency of the AMLA if it really had the teeth. The AMLA can ferret out the crooks, plunderers, crime lords and then some — all of whom will eventually attempt to launder their loot. An effective AMLA will not only identify the persons with the dirty fingers but will also provide the very physical evidence itself which is the existence and the size of the loot.

The discussion between Atty. Funk and Senator Enrile was one of the more sober question and answer portions we saw in the many televised Congress and Senate hearings. There was no grandstanding politician trying to win brownie points. To add irritation to watching these grandstanding politicians, they’re also usually inane. Senator Enrile posed his questions to Atty. Funk with the low key confidence that a knowledgeable self assured man usually exudes.

There was no defensive bureaucrat displaying fear of being exposed. Atty. Funk also expressed himself with confidence to the questions posed by Senator Enrile. He knew his subject matter, had the communications skills to express his answers and clearly showed a demeanor which does not betray a fear of being exposed for something embarrassing.

The Enrile and Funk question and answer exchange is the standard we should expect our lawmakers to adopt when conducting these investigations in aid of legislation. You can really see the aid to legislation that the Enrile and Funk question and answer provided. It demonstrates to our people what the legislative process is really all about and should be.

Between Atty. Funk and Senate President Enrile, the loopholes in the AMLA were enumerated and dissected. The discussion set the stage for President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) to subsequently order the strengthening of the AMLA. P-Noy is committed to establishing the DAANG MATUWID (the straight path) in all government operations. The DAANG MATUWID cannot be attained by presidential integrity alone. Any honest president will need laws with teeth that can enforce integrity in public service.

A toothless AMLA is counterproductive to the paving of the DAANG MATUWID. Illegally acquired money — especially a massive hoard — will eventually be laundered and once successfully laundered it will be harder to trace. Failure to launder a massive hoard, the crook will be forced to live a modest lifestyle while hiding hundred of millions somewhere.

The very least our legislators can do is to compliment the effort of P-Noy to pave the DAANG MATUWID. The 2010 elections is a mandate for DAANG MATUWID for all public officials, not just for P-Noy. One effective way to do that is by providing the deficient AMLA a set of dentures.

A good starting point is what Atty. Funk already revealed during the Senate hearing. A lot of these echoed the essential features of the Senate Bill 2484 which is based on the draft submitted by the AMLC and sponsored by Senator Serge Osmena, as follows:

1. Revise the definition of money laundering to include among others, possession, disguise, concealment, movement, and disposition of proceeds of predicate crimes.

2. Include the designated non-financial businesses and professions as reporting entities/individuals like casinos, dealers in precious metals, dealers in precious stones, notaries, other legal independent professionals and accountants when they prepare or carry out transactions like buying and selling of real estate, management of bank, savings or securities accounts and the like provided that NO REPORT is required if the relevant information was obtained in circumstances where they are subject to professional secrecy or legal professional privilege.

3. Include the addition of other serious offenses as predicate crimes like financing of terrorism, human trafficking, forgeries, bribery, counterfeiting and so forth.

4. Obligate the ex parte filing of application for bank inquiry with the Regional Trial Court except in the cases where no court order is necessary.

5. Include the confidentiality provision of transactions that are about to be reported and those that have been reported.

6. Provide for asset retention amounting to 25 percent of the total forfeited assets which will be retained and utilized by the AMLC for its maintenance and operating expenses and:

7. Restore the power of the AMLC to issue a freeze which shall be effective immediately, to implement binding conventions, directives, or resolutions of the United Nations, its Security Council and other relevant UN Offices and Committees, against terrorism or terrorist financing.

It does not surprise your Chair Wrecker that an effective AMLA could not be passed under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime. It will not also surprise your Chair Wrecker that within the Senate and the House of Representatives there are legislators who have reasons to fear the passing of an effective AMLA.

It’ll take the political capital as well as political will of P-Noy, actively and solidly backed by the Filipino nation, to motivate our legislators to immediately enact a new AMLA that can really catch the big crooked fishes.

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