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House approves bills regulating bank accounts, e-wallets

The House panel just gave a go signal to regulate the use of bank accounts, e-wallets, and other financial accounts.
File photo: GCash as an example of e-wallet
File photo: GCash as an example of e-wallet

To strengthen the financial system's defense against cybercriminals

The substitute bill is proposed to prohibit the use of the said services for unusual and suspicious financial activity. Committee Chairman and Quirino Rep. Junie Cua presided the hearing and bills were filed separately by  Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. and Magdalo Partylist Rep. Manuel Cabochan III.

According to the source, the substitute bill defined a bank accounts as an interest or non-interest bearing deposit, trust, investment and other transaction account maintained with a bank or a financial institution.

 Meanwhile, an  E-wallet refers to a digital value stored in either a software or application. Users can utilized the digital value for financial transactions such as payments, fund transfers, top-ups or cash in and/or withdrawals. Examples of E-wallets are E-money or virtual asset accounts stored in mobile and web-based apps.

In the House Bill 10141, Villafuerte emphasized the immediate need for a law that would govern bank accounts and E-wallets in reference to the surge of cybercrime in the past. 

The lawmaker proposed that  breaching of provisions of this bill when done in bulk or in large scale, will already be considered as a form of economic sabotage and a heinous crime. The unlawful  cyber activities allegedly have "deleterious effect". 

On the other hand, Cabochan's proposal which is the HB 10412 will punish money mules, social engineering schemes, and phishing that would lead to illegal online financial activities. He added,

It is paramount, therefore, that digital financial services must be regulated to ensure the safety of the public and to strengthen the financial system's defense against cybercriminals. 

In addition to this, the committee supported the amendments introduced by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. According to BSP Technology Risk and Innovation Supervision Department Director Melchor Plabasan, the changes they made were essentially intended to make the bill clearer and consistent with other regulations or laws.

In the said amendments, this are included: the change in the title of the bill which reads "An Act Regulating the Use of Bank Accounts, E-Wallets, and other Financial Accounts"; added definition of "E-wallet"; redefinition of "money mule"; and deletion of the term "phishing" to be replaced with the term "social engineering scheme" on all referring to phishing in the bill.

Under the substitute bill, the committee stated that  activities of a money mule are illegal. They also strictly prohibits social engineering schemes. This includes activities imaking any electronic communication to another person disguising as a trusted person or with the intent to defraud or injure any person, using electronic communications to induce or request any person to provide sensitive identifying information.

Meanwhile, economic sabotage is said to be present if the offense was committed by a syndicate either in in a large scale or by using a Mass Mailer. The bill also seeks to punish persons who assist or aid in 
any of the prohibited offenses or one who willfully attempts to commit any of the said wrongdoing.

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