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Philippines Senator Proposes Harsher Penalties for Cryptocurrency Crimes

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:05 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:05 PM

A new bill filed by a Philippines lawmaker is seeking tougher consequences for citizens involved in cryptocurrency crimes.

According to a new bill proposed by opposition senator Leila M. de Lima to the country’s Senate, the lawmaker is proposing a penalty that is one degree higher than what is currently provided by Philippines’ penal code, for cryptocurrency-related crimes. Filed as Senate Bill (SB) 1694, the senator specifically pointed to illegal activities involving cryptocurrency such as bribery of public officials in bitcoin, using crypto in payments for child pornography and scammers pedaling ‘fake bitcoins’ for unsuspecting adopters.

“[O]ur penal laws must adapt with the changing times and our criminal justice system must come prepared in the even that this is used in illegal activities,” she said, signaling caution in their abuse amid the advent and increasing popularity of cryptocurrencies in society.

The bill also proposes that the ‘gravity’ of the subsequent sentence should factor in the cryptocurrency’s value in Philippine pesos at the time of the crime. Further, De Lima’s bill also calls for the government to confiscate the cryptocurrency used in the crime, unless it is a property of a separate individual not liable for the illegal act.

Elaborating on the reasons for the bill, she added:

“Due to its anonymous or pseudonymous character, law enforcement agencies may encounter difficulty in tracing the user or owner of a virtual currency used in the commission of crimes, thereby necessitating a higher penalty for its use.”

The proposed bill, which will need to be passed into law before any stiffer penalties are imposed, comes at a time when Philippine regulators are actively developing guidelines to curb fraud and investor risks in cryptocurrency transactions and initial coin offerings (ICOs). Notably, both Philippines’ central bank and the country’s securities regulator are collaborating over the effort, first revealed by central ban kgovernor Nestor Espenilla late last year after acknowledging the “strong growth potential in the [ICO] space”.

The Philippines is notably among the earliest countries, globally, to issue regulations for the cryptocurrency sector in early 2017. The move was heralded as a “pioneering regulation” by the central bank’s deputy director in a televised appearance last year while stating bitcoin was “fast, near real-time and convenient” in its usage as a payment and remittance instrument.

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