Lawmakers OK proposals vs finance-system hackers

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To promote and maintain a stable and efficient financial system, the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries on Thursday approved a substitute bill regulating the use of bank accounts, e-wallets and other financial accounts.

Quirino Rep. Junie E. Cua, the panel chairman, said committee members have approved—in principle and subject to style—the proposed “Bank Account, E-wallet, and Other Financial Accounts Regulation Act of 2021.”

Cua said the committee is now preparing a report for the panel’s immediate final approval and for endorsement of the proposal to the plenary.

He explained that the proposal seeks to mitigate the rise in cybercrime incidents as the distinct lack of sufficient laws and penalties make it difficult to not only discourage cybercrime but also mete out disciplinary actions.

“The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the popularity of digital and ‘card-not-present’ transactions, which led banks to extend their reach and efficiency in the delivery of services to the public. As banking industry continually implements its digitalization initiatives and enhances its cybersecurity systems, cybercriminals, however, continue to inflict harm by finding new and different wats to deceive the banks’ customers,” Cua said.

“The economic hardship brought about by the pandemic has led some to resort to ‘easy money’ or to look for funds obtained by dubious means or for little work, such as the buy-and-sell of bank accounts which phishers or cybercriminals use to avoid arrest and criminal liability,” the lawmaker added.

The proposal gives authority to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to investigate cases involving violations of the bill and to apply for cybercrime warrants and orders mentioned in Chapter IV of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Also, the bill prohibits any person to act as a “money mule,” which includes opening a bank, e-wallet or other financial account and using or allowing the use thereof, to receive or transfer or withdraw proceeds derived from crimes, offenses or social engineering schemes.

The bill also prohibits the opening of a bank account, an e-wallet account or other financial account under a fictitious name or using the identity or identification documents of another to receive or transfer or withdraw proceeds derived from crimes or offenses.

The measure seeks to penalize any person performing any social engineering schemes.

It said social engineering scheme shall also be deemed committed when a person performs any of the following: makes any electronic communication to another person disguising as a trusted person or a representative of a financial institution or a trusted person; or, with intent to defraud or injure any person, uses electronic communication to induce or request any person to provide sensitive identifying information.

The bill, meanwhile, said if the offense was committed by a crime syndicate, in large scale or using a mass mailer shall be considered as economic sabotage.

The measure said any person found guilty as “money mule” shall be punished with imprisonment of prision correccional or a fine of at least P100,000 but not exceeding P200,000; or both.

Also, any person found guilty of social engineering schemes shall be punished with imprisonment of prision mayor or a fine of at least P200,000 but not exceeding P500,000; or both.

Under the bill, any person found guilty of any of the offenses that constitutes economic sabotage shall be punished with life imprisonment and a fine of not less than P1 million but not more than P5 million.

Also, it provides that any person found guilty of aiding in the commission of any of the offenses shall be punished with imprisonment one degree lower than that of the prescribed penalty for the offense or a fine of at least P100,000 but not exceeding P500,000 or both.

The bill said when any of the punishable acts committed on behalf of or for the benefit of a juridical person, by a natural person who has a leading position within― based on (a) a power of representation of the juridical person provided the act committed falls within the scope of such authority; (b) an authority to take decisions on behalf of the juridical person (provided  that the act committed falls within the scope of such authority); or, (c) an authority to exercise control within the juridical person—the juridical person shall be held liable for a fine equivalent to at least double the fines imposable and up to a maximum of P10 million.

The measure said an amount of P50 million shall be appropriated annually for the implementation of the proposal.

It also created a Congressional Oversight Committee to monitor and oversee the implementation of the proposal.