Home Banking & Finance Bill eyes tighter rules on use of bank accounts, e-wallets as financial...

Bill eyes tighter rules on use of bank accounts, e-wallets as financial crimes rise  

A PROPOSED MEASURE eyes to regulate the use of bank accounts and e-wallets amid the rise of cybercrimes. 

“We have seen the growth of transactions using cyberspace. We have seen also the surge of cybercrimes related to financial transactions. Among these common illegal activities are phishing and cash mules,” Quirino Representative and House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries Chairperson Junie E. Cua said in an online Congressional hearing on Tuesday. 

“While there is already an Anti-Cybercrime Law, there is an imperative as well to craft something special for financial transactions,” he added. 

House Bill 9615 or the Bank Account and E-wallet Regulation Act was filed by Mr. Cua on June 14. 

In his explanatory note, Mr. Cua noted that the Philippines has no law against the use of financial accounts for criminal activities.  

“For the last three years, around 1,419 incidents were tied to deposit crimes and losses. The distinct lack of sufficient laws and penalties make it difficult to not only discourage cybercrime but also mete out disciplinary action,” Mr. Cua said. 

Major threat actor groups or hackers that engage in dark web activities where people’s account details are shared and sold increased to 28 in 2020 from just five in 2016, said Dennis C. Bancod, head of IT and Operations at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., who was speaking for the Bankers Association of the Philippines. This strengthens the need for a measure to go after cybercriminals, he said. 

“Essentially, we know the players, in a sense that intelligence players have identified. I guess that’s the reason why we have this draft House bill, so we can go after them,” he said. 

Major offenses under the proposed bill include money mules, phishing, and economic sabotage. Based on the provisions, persons found guilty of these prohibited acts shall be punished with imprisonment of prision mayor (six years and one day to 12 years) or a fine of at least P200,000 but not exceeding P500,000. 

Meanwhile, persons found guilty of acts such as aiding a money mule and attempting to commit a crime under the major offenses shall face prision correccional (six months and one day to six years) or a fine of at least P100,000 but not exceeding P200,000. 

Under the bill, a money mule is defined as a “person who electronically receives, acquires, or transfers money, funds, or proceeds derived from phishing or other cybercrime”.  

Some of these provisions were questioned by Manila Teachers Rep. Virgilio S. Lacson and Deputy House Speaker and Cebu Rep. Pablo John F. Garcia, noting how some unbanked Filipinos have to use their relatives’ accounts to get access to financial services. 

“It is important that we define suspicious activities since this is a penal law, so this is not overboard, to prevent the punishment of otherwise innocent activities,” Mr. Lacson said. 

Meanwhile, Melchor T. Plabasan, Director for Technology Risk and Innovation Supervision Department at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), said the bill should also cover other payment service providers aside from banks and e-wallets as criminals could also use these platforms. — LWTN