Anti-terrorism law’s IRR gives AMLC power to quickly freeze assets of government-identified individuals, groups

AUTHORITIES WILL now be able to quickly freeze the assets of individuals and entities designated by the government as terrorists, according to Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Mel Georgie B. Racela.

Under the newly-released implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, individuals and groups will be designated as terrorists  by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) based on probable cause found.

“For reasons of public safety and security, it is imperative that said funds and other assets be frozen within hours of designation, which is a requirement of the UNSCR (United Nations Security Council Resolution) 1373,” Mr. Racela said in a text message to BusinessWorld.

“A hearing would defeat this purpose as it would give designated persons or entities the opportunity to conceal said funds and other assets,” he added.

Prior to the anti-terrorism law, the government can only freeze assets of groups designated by the UNSC and other foreign jurisdictions, Mr. Racela said.

Among the internationally-designated terrorist groups are the Abu Sayyaf and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

“That is why we were non-compliant with international standards before as stated in our Mutual Evaluation Report of 2019,” Mr. Racela explained.

He said the IRR provision relating to designation will “not only prevent transfer of funds but more importantly prevent the funds from being used to facilitate terrorism.”

The country is currently under close watch of the Financial Action Task Force for addressing leniencies in counter-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering schemes.

The IRR allows the ATC to publish the list of designated persons in its official Web site, newspapers, and on the online official gazette. The ATC will also have a mechanism to immediately convey information related to the designated individuals or groups to the public, financial sector, and non-financial businesses and professions.

Designated parties have 15 days from the time of publication for a request for delisting on grounds of mistaken identity, relevant change of facts and circumstance, newly discovered evidence, death of a designated person, dissolution or liquidation of designated organizations and other circumstances which show the basis for designation no longer exist.

“The process is based on reasonable grounds, but it does not involve imprisonment or permanent taking of properties and other assets at the time of designation and subsequent publication. Designated persons or entities still retain ownership of assets under sanctions freeze,” Mr. Racela said.

National Union of People’s Lawyer President Edre U. Olalia, on the other hand, expressed concern that the designation process is being handled by a non-judicial body.

“The composition [of the ATC] is objectionable, their independence and objectivity does not inspire confidence because most of them are handpicked appointments of the President [Rodrigo R. Duterte],” he said in a phone interview.

More than 30 petitions against the anti-terrorism law have been filed and currently pending before the Supreme Court. — Luz Wendy T. Noble

Over 800,000 informal workers seen to benefit from employment program

MORE THAN 800,000 informal workers are expected to benefit from a government emergency employment program implemented by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

DoLE-Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns Director Karen Perida-Trayvilla said they are expecting around P6 billion out of the P13 billion allocated to the department under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act for coronavirus response measures.

“We have proposed P6 billion which will help 863,667 beneficiaries,” she said in a virtual press conference on Monday.

With the fund, the employment period for beneficiaries of the TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers) program has been extended to 15-17 days from 10.

Payment is based on the regional daily minimum wage. — Gillian M. Cortez   

House ready to transmit 2021 budget without changes on controversial items

THE HOUSE of Representatives is ready to transmit the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget to the Senate without adjustments in controversial items.

Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, appropriations committee senior vice-chair and chair of the ways and means committee, said in an online briefing that only “institutional amendments and departmental errata” were made during the first and only meeting of the small committee tasked to realign funds.

Other concerns raised earlier such as the P11.1 billion infrastructure fund supposedly allocated to the congressional districts of former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his wife, Taguig 2nd District Rep. Lani L. Cayetano, will only be discussed during the bicameral session, which is expected to begin next month.

Speaker Lord Alan Q. Velasco on Monday assured that the 2021 General Appropriations Bill will be transmitted to the Senate not later than Oct. 28.

Mr. Salceda said they only tackled around P20 billion worth of appropriations coming from different agencies, which included a P3.5 billion increase for the procurement of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines.

Marikina Rep. Stellla Luz Quimbo recently said that the original allocation of P2.5 billion for COVID-19 vaccines is not enough to cover around 20 million Filipinos next year.

She said the procurement of vaccines would require a total budget of P12.8 billion. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza