The Philippine Senate has until the end of May to pass a bill amending the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to avert a possible blacklist scenario that would exact a heavy toll on the country's overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Mindful of this deadline imposed by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III repeated his call for the immediate passage of the bill amending the AMLA, as well as the proposed measure against terrorist financing.
Whether the Upper House would be able to pass these bills before the end of May FATF-imposed deadline remains to be seen.
The Senate is having two separate undertakings - as a legislative body passing bills and acting on resolutions, among others, and as an impeachment court in the trial against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.
It goes into a sine-die adjournment on June 8.
Guingona, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, asserted that "time may be running out on our bid to avert the negative consequences of a blacklisting by countries who are members of FATF."
The son of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. aired the call amid concerns from the financial, business and labor sectors about the possibility of the blacklisting by FATF member-countries.
Guingona doused speculations that the bid to amend the present AMLA was due solely to the prospect of an FATF blacklist.
"As a sovereign nation, no one can force us to do anything," he said.
"However, we have the obligation to ensure that our laws address the public interest and that these are strong enough to prevent our country from being used as a haven for money launderers and terrorists. When we signed international com¬mitments against money laundering and terrorism, we committed to establish the proper legal framework to support such commitments," he said.
Guingona warned that in the past, FATF member-countries have imposed closer scrutiny procedures for financial transactions coming from and going to blacklisted countries.
It included requiring more documents, longer transaction time, and even refusal to facilitate financial services to nationals of blacklisted countries.
"The first to feel this would be the OFW community," he warned.
He explained that the current law against money laundering has "severe shortcomings that need to be corrected."
"Stronger laws against money laundering and criminalizing terrorist financing are just logical steps that we must take in order to give life to our commitments. We can't just keep on signing these agreements and remain negligent in our duty to ensure that we have the laws to support the same," he said.
Guingona underscored that despite the Philippines' commitment to fight terrorism, "until today the country still has no law criminalizing terrorist financing."