BSP backs immediate passage of AFASA bill

By Anna Leah Gonzales

January 22, 2024, 4:35 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

TAGAYTAY – The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is hopeful that the proposed Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act or AFASA bill, which will allow the BSP to examine financial accounts involved in prohibited acts, will be passed by May this year.

"Senator [Mark] Villar said by May daw kaya. Nag-committee hearing na kasi kami sa Senate last week. Second committee hearing na. So lahat ng um-attend, may PNP (Philippine National Police), BAP (Bankers Association of the Philippines), they agreed (Senator [Mark] Villar said it will be possible by May. We already had a committee hearing in the Senate last week. That's the second committee hearing. All those that attended like the PNP, BAP, they agreed)," Elmore Capule, BSP senior assistant governor and general counsel of the office of the general counsel and legal services, said in a media information session on Saturday.

The AFASA bill prohibits and punishes financial crimes such as acting as money mule, performing social engineering schemes and committing economic sabotage.

The bill also authorizes the BSP to investigate cases involving violation of the proposed law, apply for cybercrime warrants and orders, and request the assistance of the cybercrime units of the National Bureau of Investigation and the PNP in the investigation of cases involving violations of the proposed law and in the enforcement and implementation of cybercrime warrants and related orders.

The proposed bill also includes a limited authority of BSP to examine and investigate financial accounts, e-wallets and other financial accounts that are involved in the prohibited acts, and shall be exempt from the existing bank secrecy laws as well as data privacy laws to gather sufficient information for the investigation.

"Now this bill if it becomes a law, what will happen is that phishing, account takeovers, money mules, they will be criminalized," Capule said.

He said that based on BSP data, the top three nature of cyber incidents in 2022 include fraud (5,211 incidents), phishing and its variations (6,295 incidents), and account takeover or identity theft (3,104 incidents).

The amount involved was PHP623 million for fraud, PHP623 million for phishing, and PHP409 million for account takeover or identity theft.

The Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council earlier approved the AFASA bill as one of the 20 priority legislations of the Marcos administration.

"It already passed the lower house. It's now in the Senate. As a matter of fact, last week we had another committee hearing in the Senate. And it's favorable. Even the industry is supporting it. So according to Senator Mark Villar, his committee will fast-track this," Capule said.

"So if it passes to the Senate after they go to second reading and then third reading, you already have the approval in the House. They can have a bicam(eral), hopefully we can have this passed asap," he added. (PNA)