DESPITE reports about drug syndicates using casinos as venue for their illicit trade and means to launder drug money, there has been no proposal in congress to include casinos and other legitimate gambling joints in the list of covered institutions of the anti-money laundering act (AMLA).
Congress last year passed the third amendment on AMLA which expanded the list of covered institutions under the law and included foreign exchange dealers, pawnshops, money changers, remittance and transfer companies and other similar entities; pre-need companies; jewelry dealers in precious stones and metals.
The bill, which excluded casinos and online casinos in the list, was signed by president Benigno Aquino 3rd which prompted the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to spare the Philippines from being blacklisted.
Senator Teofisto Guingona 3rd, the sponsor of the measure in the Senate, has said that
the removal of casinos from the covered institutions created a hole in the law but it is much better rather than not having the measure passed.
He also assured in a statement issued last February 2013 that his first act in the coming 16th Congress will be to introduce a fourth set of amendments to AMLA to include casinos that was taken out from the Senate version at the bicameral conference level.
However, more than five months have passed and Guingona still has not yet filed the new set of amendments to AMLA.
According to Guingona’s staff, the proposed measure is currently being finalized and the senator is just waiting for additional inputs from the anti-money laundering council (AMLC) since the proposal is very complicated.
Observers believe that congress may find it difficult to pass the such measure considering that one of the oppositors to the proposal is the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) which is a government controlled corporation.
But Guingona in an earlier interview expressed confidence he could get the needed support to have the measure passed considering that there are more industry players that operating in the country and may have different views than of Pagcor.
“We’re all doing this in the spirit of international cooperation. So we have signed this treaty and, therefore, we have mandated ourselves to comply with an international obligation,” he earlier said.
Apart from casinos, Guingona should also look into the possible inclusion of other legitimate gambling joints that are also serving as haven for criminal syndicates like cockpits which according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) are being frequented by drug traffickers.
According to PDEA drug deals can easily be made in cockpits where drug traffickers can pose as breeders or bettors.
Anti-Narcotics investigators are currently looking into the possibility following the discovery that the pointman for the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel for its Philippine operation, Jorge Torres, and alleged Chinese drug lord Gary Tan are cockfighting enthusiasts.
Death for foreign drug traders
Meanwhile, Senator Joseph victor Ejercito, has filed a bill that seeks to impose stiffer penalties against foreign nationals found violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of the country in a bid to discourage aliens from using the Philippines are there venue for their trade.
Ejercito pointed out that although the penalty of life imprisonment is imposed on the importing and selling of dangerous drugs, the continuous proliferation of prohibited substance seems to imply that it has not been a sufficient deterrent.
What is more alarming, he said, is that most of the head of drug syndicates had been found to be non-filipino citizen.
“It is for this reason that the enactment of a law which provide for additional penalty to foreigners is required because it is necessitated by the times and that greater respect for the territory of the Philippines by foreigners is a matter that should be observed,” Ejercito added.
In filing senate bill 1493, Ejercito wants section 31 of the RA 9165 amended and have foreign nationals who violated the Philippine drug laws be given the penalty prescribed by the alien’s national law.
“The penalty of death, if applicable, shall be imposed despite the prohibition of the imposition of the death Penalty in the Philippines,” the proposed bill stated. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA