MANILA – Bank and electronic money (e-money) accounts that will have unusual transactions ahead of the May 2022 national polls will be investigated by authorities for any election-related crimes sans any violation under the Data Privacy Act.

Lawyer Mel Georgie Racela, Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director, said the Council, based on an opinion by the National Privacy Commission as early as 2017, can investigate financial transactions and this will not be a violation under the Data Privacy Act since this is part of AMLC’s mandate.

“As a financial intelligence unit, ang mandato po ay (the mandate is) to preserve integrity of the bank accounts and to ensure na ang Pilipinas po ay hindi ginagamit (that the Philippines is not being used) to launder proceeds of unlawful activities. And kung hindi po tayo magsyi-share ay napakahirap pong ma-execute iyong aming mandato. So, mayroon po kaming exemptions sa National Privacy Commission (And if we will not share information, it will be hard to execute our mandate. So, we have exemptions from the National Privacy Commission),” he said during the Laging Handa briefing on Wednesday.

AMLC earlier issued an advisory to covered persons in anticipation of the possible rise of digital financial transactions during the election period.

Racela declined to disclose whether the Council has received reports of possible election-related financial transactions such as vote-buying or vote-selling but pointed out that the advisory is intended to remind covered persons such as officials of banks and electronic money issuers (EMIs) not to be remiss in their responsibilities of reporting questionable transactions to authorities.

He said banks and EMIs should file suspicious transaction reports to AMLC if their monitoring team has observed such instances.

Racela said banks and EMIs will not be liable under the Election Code for any administrative and criminal sanctions unless they do not report suspicious transactions to authorities.

Red flags for these transactions include single large cash deposit followed by multiple transfers and withdrawals, any transaction that is not consistent with the account owner’s previous transactions, and a person with large number of transactions for a short period during the election period, he said.

Racela said these factors will be considered along with the location of recipients, frequency of the transactions, and the age of the recipients.

“Lahat po iyan kapag nai-combine ay nagiging red flag indicator, puwedeng maging ground for filing or submitting suspicious transaction report sa AMLC po. (All of these, when combined, become red flag indicators and are possible to be grounds for filing or submitting suspicious transaction reports to AMLC),” he added. (PNA)