House panel begins deliberations on bill regulating e-wallets

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The House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries began on Tuesday, Aug. 17, to fine-tune House Bill 9615, which seeks to regulate the use of e-wallets and prohibit their use for any unlawful activity.

Screenshot from House of Representatives

In the explanatory note of the bill, committee chair and Quirino representative Junie Cua said that as the banking industry implements its digitalization initiatives, criminals continue to inflict harm by finding new and different ways to deceive bank consumers.

“These cybercriminals have determined that retail customers are the ‘weak point’ that can be exploited,” Cua said.

During the presentation of the Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP), it was cited that the Philippines is the world’s fourth country with the highest number of detected online threats per the Kaspersky 2019 Report.

BAP representative and RCBC senior executive vice president Dennis Bancod said that about 25,000 phishing sites are targeting the country, while more than 100 million Philippine user records are exposed on the so-called Dark Web.

Christine Red, BPI assistant vice president, presented some of the challenges in enforcing the country’s cybercrime laws, such as:

  1. Offenses are bailable,
  2. Cybercriminals are exploiting customers through social engineering schemes (phishing, vishing, and smishing), and
  3. Proliferation of money mules to avoid arrest, among others.

Meanwhile, the small technical working group assigned to fine-tune HB 9615 presented the initial substitute bill it crafted. The substitute bill entitled “Bank Accounts, E-Wallets, and Other Financial Accounts Regulation Act” seeks to protect all persons from falling prey to the various cybercrime schemes by regulating and prohibiting the use of bank accounts and e-wallets for unusual and unlawful financial activities.

The bill prohibits money mule, social engineering schemes, and economic sabotage. It refers to a money mule as “any person who obtains, receives, acquires or transfers or withdraws money, funds, or proceeds derived from an unlawful activity, social engineering schemes or other crimes, offenses committed through the use of ICT, and those who commit the acts under Section 4(a) of the proposed Act.”

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas director Melchor Plabasan presented the initial substitute bill mostly crafted by the BSP and BAP. Deputy speaker Pablo John Garcia and Manila Teachers party-list representative Virgilio Lacson agreed that the term suspicious activity should be replaced by “unlawful activity” when defining prohibited acts under the bill.

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