March 16, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – If elected president, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Wednesday said she will certify as urgent a bill expanding the coverage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to include casinos and save the country from being a “money laundering hub.”
In a statement, Santiago said the recent $81-million fiasco involving funds hacked from Bank of Bangladesh and plowed to the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) highlights the urgent need to require casinos to report questionable deals to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
“If the casino sector remains outside of the coverage of AMLA, the Philippines risks of becoming the world’s money laundering capital,” the presidential aspirant said.
Santiago’s statement comes as the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee continues to probe on how the funds hacked managed to enter the Philippine financial system unchecked.
The stolen funds reportedly went to four RCBC bank accounts before it was transferred to major casino players who allegedly used the money to either “buy chips” or “pay for casino losses.”
Santiago said the AMLA amendment is necessary for the Philippines to keep out of the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
FATF is a Paris-based global body against money laundering and terrorist financing.
If blacklisted by the FATF, Santiago said the country would suffer higher financial transaction costs and stringent cross-border measures for money transactions.
At present, the senator said the Philippines remains in the FATF “grey list.”
The Congress has sought to require casinos to report to AMLC in 2012, but the proposal was opposed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., saying that the provision might drive away investors.
Santiago vowed to match the lobby from the casino sector with political will.
“The Filipinos should elect a president who will not bow to the whims of big business, to the detriment of public interest,” the senator said.
Santiago won the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1988 for reforming the Commission on Immigration and Deportation, which was then known as the “fake passport capital of the world.”