May 22, 2012
Cayetano stressed importance of check-and-balance in amending the AMLA
Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano stressed that amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) should be considered, provided that these are not aimed at furthering the political agenda of those in power.
"We want the law to be used against money laundering, against graft and corruption, not as tool to be used for political gain, like blackmail," he said.
The senator pointed this out in light of the on-going debate on the powers and coverage of the Bank Secrecy Law and the AMLA vis-à-vis Chief Justice Renato Corona's bank accounts in the ongoing impeachment trial.
"If you're an anti-graft advocate, making the process of looking into the bank accounts of public officials simpler is a good move. However, as legislators we have to determine where to draw the line. When can we consider looking into bank accounts as illegal searches and when can it be classified as just data-gathering?" he said.
The minority leader also underscored the need for the Office of the Ombudsman and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to ensure that their proactive anti-corruption policy today in going after alleged grafters and corrupt officials are standard operating procedures and not merely a special exception made for this impeachment trial.
"Will this be the norm for all government officials - both allies and foes? If the answer is yes, that's good. If there is suspicious activity reported in a government agency, AMLC can speedily report on it and if found guilty, the culprits can easily be caught," he said.
"However, if the answer is no then we have to ask why an exception is being made in the case of Chief Justice Corona. Procedures cannot be established on a case-to-case basis. If they're made applicable to one public official then they should be applicable to all," he added.
Cayetano also pointed out that the investigating agencies must ensure that the policies adopted in the fight against corruption provide for a check and balance among agencies and that there are enough safeguards to protect the basic rights of citizens.
He noted that some of the proposed amendments on AMLA seem to reflect the global streak against corruption and money laundering - from the role of the AMLC, the Court of Appeals to the regional trial courts to the expansion of the ex parte proceedings from the freeze orders to even inquiry on bank deposits.
"I am afraid that some proposed amendments to the AMLA may prove to be violative of the due process clause, particularly on the subject of ex parte application for inquiring into bank accounts. I am considering proposing a review on the ex parte provision," he said.
"Likewise the definition of "related web of accounts" is vague and encompassing ("materially linked"), therefore, prone to abuse. I see a need for clearer definition," he added.
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