Philippine Senator Seeks Stiffer Penalty for Crypto-Enabled Crimes

A Philippine senator wants tougher penalties for crimes committed with the help of cryptocurrencies.

A Philippine senator is proposing harsher penalties for crimes facilitated cryptocurrency, particularly Bitcoin, in a bid to manage the risks associated with the new asset class.

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has submitted a bill calling for an update of the country’s penal code. De Lima’s proposal aims to make all crimes committed using virtual currencies subject to a penalty one degree higher than what the current law provides.

De Lima said in a press release:

“With the emerging threats of its use in the commission of crimes, our penal laws must adapt with the changing times and our criminal justice system must come prepared in the event that this is used in illegal activities.”

She continued:

“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.”

According to De Lima, criminal elements might exploit cryptocurrencies to engage in illegal activities such financial fraud, the issuance of fake Bitcoins, and the purchase of child pornography. She added that virtual coins could also be used to bribe public officials, finance terrorist activities, and launder money.

The senator wants the government to seize and confiscate cryptocurrencies used in committing a crime with the exception of virtual money that “belongs to another person not liable for the unlawful act.”

Philippines will not ban ICOs

In January this year, the Philippine’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected suggestions for banning initial coin offerings (ICOs), the preferred capital-raising mechanism among fintech startups. The market regulator said the administration believed this technology can be beneficial to the public when used properly.

However, SEC commissioner Emilio Aquino clarified that while his agency would not prohibit ICOs, the government would go after individuals or companies found to be abusing the scheme by selling unregistered securities.

Earlier, the country’s central bank governor, Nestor Espenilla, said that his office was coordinating with the SEC to devise a common rule on ICOs. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has also approved the license applications of several cryptocurrency exchanges.

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