PH should effectively implement anti-terrorism law to avoid global sanctions – AMLC

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 9) — Passing the Anti-Terrorism Act is one thing, but what would save the country from facing sanctions by a global watchdog is the effective implementation of the new law, the Anti-Money Laundering Council said Thursday.

"It must be remembered that it is not enough to pass the ATA into law because the Philippines is being assessed both on technical and effectiveness compliance. The country must also demonstrate effective implementation of the ATA before the observation period ends in February 2021," the AMLC said in a statement.

In 2019, the Paris-based global dirty money watchdog Financial Action Task Force found that the Philippines has not conducted any prosecution of cases related to terrorist financing due to “deficiencies,” noting a low number of asset freezes due to the lack of terrorist designations.

Under the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Act, the Anti-Terrorism Council will automatically adopt the United Nations Security Council’s list of terrorists and their financiers. The council will then request the AMLC to freeze the accounts and assets of the designated terrorists.

READ: Anti-Terrorism Council ready to review new law, craft IRR

“Now that the ATA has been passed, the Philippines has an opportunity to implement the same and demonstrate progress in fulfilling our international commitments,” the AMLC said.

Should the country fail to do so, it could be gray-listed and at risk of facing sanctions from institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. There could be adverse effects on trade and even remittances – which involves billions of dollars sent home by overseas Filipino workers.

“Gray-listing will have a negative impact on the reputation of the economy and the cost of doing business with its citizens, both as an individual and a juridical entity,” the AMLC said.

While the Anti-Terrorism Act gives more teeth against terrorist financing, critics fear that it relaxes safeguards on human rights and may be open to abuse. Among the hotly-contested provisions is Section 29, which allows warrantless arrest and detention without charges for up to 24 days.

There are now six Supreme Court petitions challenging the constitutionality of the controversial law, less than a week after its enactment. Lawmakers who sponsored and authored the measure maintain that a suspected terrorist won’t be automatically detained on mere suspicion and that law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear.

READ: Duterte: Communists are terrorists, but law-abiders should not fear new act