The transitory provision of Republic Act No. 9194, or the new Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (AMLA), is poised to unfreeze 1.08 billion pesos in money and property suspected of being related to unlawful activities.
Section 12 of the AMLA provides that “existing freeze orders issued by the Anti-Money Laundering Council shall remain in force for a period of thirty days after the effectivity of this Act, unless extended by the Court of Appeals.” The AMLA took effect on March 23, 2003, and the thirty-day period provided for by the law expires on April 22, 2003. There are 29 cases related to money laundering activities currently pending before the Court of Appeals, and 7 before the Supreme Court.
In a move to head off the effects of the new AMLA’s transitory provision, the AMLC, thru the Office of the Solicitor General, filed before the Supreme Court (SC), on April 3, 2003, very urgent motions to remand seven anti-money laundering cases to the Court of Appeals (CA) for resolution. These cases had been pending before the SC on a petition for review on certiorari, questioning the CA’s decision to dismiss them for lack of jurisdiction.
On April 4, 2003, the AMLC thru the OSG filed very urgent motions before the Court of Appeals, asking the appellate court to determine the existence of probable cause for extending the freeze orders in 29 separate cases. Under the law, the freeze orders cannot be extended without a finding of probable cause by the Court.
“If the existing freeze orders issued by the Anti-Money Laundering Council are not extended on or before April 22,” Solicitor General Alfredo L. Benipayo clarified, “they will automatically be lifted by operation of law. The funds and bank deposits involved in those cases, amounting to 1.08 billion pesos, are likely to disappear and the money laundering cases already filed would be seriously weakened.”
The Solicitor General is assisted by an OSG Task Force headed by Asst. Solicitor General Roman G. del Rosario, with Solicitors Julia Bacay-Abad, Elpidio Capicoy, Napoleon Segundera and Mark John Dumbrique.