Press Release
December 6, 2011

Sponsorship Speech
Senate Bill 3009

Mr. President, Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

"Experience ... is the best teacher".

So the saying goes.

Today, I stand before you as one who has been taught well by experience ... as one who has been taught well by our many sad experiences here in the Senate as we went in pursuit of Truth ... and in pursuit of what we believe is money that rightfully belongs to the people - and which have been hidden together with the Truth.

And there were times when we came close to uncovering the Truth ... only to find out that the people's money we were chasing after was no nowhere to be found.

Experience is the best teacher.

And experience may have taught us that the Truth is easier to find ... than the money of the people that unscrupulous individuals may have stashed away in their own private bank accounts.

So, today, I stand before you to ask you to appreciate these lessons from experience.

I stand before you to present, and to ask for your support for the immediate passage into law of Senate Bill 3009 which aims to amend and to strengthen the present Anti-Money Laundering Law.

Senate Bill No. 3009 proposes the following:

First, an amendment to section 10 of the current AMLA law on "Freezing of Monetary Instrument of Property".

Second, an amendment to section 11 of the current AMLA law on "Authority to Inquire into Bank Deposits." I will now go to the first: proposed amendments in relation to "Freezing of Monetary Instrument or Property".

Mr. President: We all know that the current pertinent provision Republic Act 9194 allows only the Court of Appeals to issue a freeze order upon application ex parte by the AMLC.

Senate Bill 3009, therefore, proposes: amend the present law to include the following rules on freeze orders:

One, that a freeze order may still be issued by the Court of Appeals upon an ex parte application by the AMLC, whether or not the same is in aid of the court's appellate jurisdiction.

Two, that two other courts now also be authorized to issue freeze orders - a Regional Trial Court exercising jurisdiction over the territorial area where the monetary instrument or property is located and/or where the allegedly unlawful activity was committed, and the Sandiganbayan.

Three, that the pertinent courts be required to act on the petition to freeze before the end of business hours on the day that the petition is filed, OR within twenty-four (24) hours from filing the petition.

Four, that except for the Supreme Court, all courts be prohibited from issuing a temporary restraining order or a writ of injunction against any freeze order.

The reasons behind the proposed amendments reflect the urgency of the need.

Why should we allow additional courts, the RTC and the Sandiganbayan, to likewise issue a freeze order?

The reason is expediency for the government to be able to act fast. For the government to preserve monetary instruments or property that may be linked to unlawful activities, the AMLC should be given the flexibility to access a variety of courts. This will make the freezing process faster and more efficient.

Why should a freeze order be issued either before the end of business hours or within 24 hours from filing of the petition, whichever comes first?

A freeze order must be issued at the soonest possible time to ensure that monetary instruments/properties will not be withdrawn by the accused in an attempt to hide the proceeds of unlawful activities committed.

This proposed measure particularly addresses a situation where the account holder or property owner acquires knowledge or information about the investigation being conducted against him by the AMLC or about the fact that an application for freeze has been filed against his bank account and/or properties.

I need not explain what such individuals may do in the face of an impending probe. As I said earlier, experience is the best teacher.

Let me go the next point: why should courts, except the Supreme Court, be prohibited from issuing temporary restraining orders or writs of injunction against freeze orders?

The other courts should not be allowed to defeat the freeze order issued by the CA, RTC or Sandiganbayan, as the case may be, upon a finding of probable cause that the money or property subject of the AMLC's application for freeze order is related in any way to an unlawful activity under the AMLA.

Allowing other courts to issue a TRO against the freeze order would render this remedial measure useless.

I will not go to the proposed amendments in relation to the "Authority to Inquire into Bank Deposits."

In Republic v. Eugenio, the Supreme Court ruled that the authority to inquire into bank deposits cannot be done ex parte.

Senate Bill 3009 now proposes that ex parte applications for bank inquiry be allowed.

Let me explain the rationale.

First, it must be noted that the Supreme Court did not say that ex parte bank inquiries are inherently infirm based on constitutional reasons. It only said that ex parte bank inquiries cannot be allowed "without a clear provision in the law".

Second, it must be noted that the current provision in Republic Act 9184 does not mention the word "ex parte" in relation to application for bank inquiry.

Senate Bill 3009 now proposes that the law clearly provide for the words 'ex parte' to describe applications for the authority to inquire into or examine any particular deposit or investment, including related web accounts.

The main purpose of this amendment is to prevent the bank account holder from withdrawing his assets and closing his account - leaving the government empty-handed.

To quote the former chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, notifying the bank account holder of a bank inquiry is "equivalent to telling a thief to hide his loot lest the police discover and seize it."[1]

Justice Panganiban knows well the lessons from experience.

So does the AMLC.

In the experience of the AMLC, the requirement of giving the account holder notice and hearing in relation to applications for the authority to inquire into bank deposits has resulted to several problems.

How many instances have there been when urgency in the AMLC's application for bank inquiry been thwarted by the time it takes to serve notice to the respondents?

The problem has been compounded by the fact that , since the respondents, by virtue of the notice requirement, are given an opportunity to file their respective comments, oppositions and/or appropriate pleadings, including motions for extensions, the court could not resolve the application until the last pleading is filed.

Mr. President, the need to accept and approve the proposals that we have presented before all of you today is urgent.

If we are to put real value to the Anti-Money Laundering law, we must support the AMLC in its efforts to track down and stop the further leakage of monetary instruments or property that are connected to any of the unlawful activities enumerated in the law.

It must be emphasized that the proposed amendments have ensured that the power to freeze and the authority to inquire into bank deposits can only be exercised through valid and lawful court orders.

These proposed amendments underscore our continuing commitment to the goals of the anti-money laundering law even as we ensure that the constitutional mandates are preserved, protected, and promoted.

Experience is, indeed, the best teacher.

And experience tells us that we must act quickly.

Thank you, Mr. President.



[1] "Restore Amla's fangs," With Due Respect, by former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 10, 2010).

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