Senate passes bill allowing gov’t to freeze funds of suspected terrorists PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 09 June 2012 16:00

The Senate approved on third and final reading on Wednesday a bill that allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to inquire and freeze funds in the banks of suspected terrorists even without a court order.

All the 21 senators present during the last day of session have voted for the passage of the Senate Bill 3127, which was certified by President Benigno Aquino III as urgent.

Under Republic Act 9160, or otherwise known as the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, the AMLC can only freeze any account or monetary instrument of the suspected terrorist upon determination of the probable cause to hold the bank accounts.

However, under the Senate-approved bill sponsored by Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Sergio Osmena III, the act of financing the terrorist activities will be restricted by paralyzing the very lifeline of unscrupulous groups and individuals.

The bill penalizes any person who deals with property or funds owned or controlled by terrorist organizations, or those that have been seized and sequestered pursuant to R.A. 9372 or the Human Security Act.

It also mandates the Anti-Money Laundering Council to investigate any property or funds that are related to financing of terrorism or acts of terrorism.
“SB 3127 criminalizes terrorist financing as an offense separate from the crime of terrorism. Mere financing, despite the non-accomplishment of terrorist acts will be penalized,” Guingona said.

He said that the bill also penalizes any person who deals with properties or funds owned or controlled by terrorist organizations or those that have been seized and sequestered under the Human Security Act.

“This is important since the bill mandates the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council to investigate any property or funds that could be related to financing terrorist elements and activities,” Guingona said.

The approved measure penalizes any person who assisted the principal of the crime by concealing or destroying the effects of the crime, or by harboring or assisting the escape of criminals. The penalty for these offenses is two degrees lower than that prescribed for the principals of terror financing.

“Since terrorism essentially depends on the financing it may obtain, it is a matter of grave and urgent concern to any reasonable government to criminalize the financing of terrorism. To financially paralyze any terrorist groups is a serious endeavor towards the more challenging goal of fully eliminating terrorism,” Guingona said.

He said that terrorism is a threat against the peace and stability of the community of nations.

“As a result, the obligation to eliminate this threat is a cooperative effort among various nations. A country perceived to be a haven of terrorists or perceived to have insufficient mechanisms to address terrorism faces several challenges that affect its development, economic integrity, and financial viability,” he said.

Guingona noted that a strong anti-money laundering regime is a step towards the end of corruption.

“It also creates a stable financial system: one that is bolstered by funds and investments from legitimate sources. There is no logic in the belief that a strong anti-money laundering regime will only encourage people to transfer their funds to other territories. I believe that when one earns legitimately, one is not afraid of a strong anti-money laundering regime. One would even welcome it,” he said.

The Senate also approved SB 3009 on third and final reading on Tuesday. The bill allows the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), through the courts, to inquire into bank accounts and investments of suspected money launderers, as well as related accounts, with neither notice nor hearing given to the account holder.

The Senate ratified on Wednesday the bicameral conference committee report on the consolidated version of Senate Bill 3009 and House Bill 4275.