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Angie M. Rosales

Sen. Leila de Lima yesterday urged colleagues to take up and deliberate on her filed bills seeking to impose stiffer penalties for crimes involving cryptocurrencies such as the uncovered “bitcoin” investment scam.

De Lima made the call as she took note of the recent arrest of a couple behind the alleged bitcoin investment scheme.
“I hope that this occurrence will push my esteemed colleagues in the Senate to take my proposed bill seriously and help pass it into law soon. Knowing that virtual currency resembles money, and that the possibilities in using it are endless, higher penalty for its use on illegal activities is necessary,” she said in a statement.
De Lima, in filing Senate Bills 959 and 1694, underscored the need to update existing laws against syndicated estafa.
The detained senator is hoping that the upper chamber leadership will give priority to her SB 1694 which she filed last month and crimes involving cryptocurrencies.
“As I’ve mentioned before, our penal laws must adapt with the changing times and our criminal justice system must come prepared in the event like this,” she said.
SB 959 seeks to amend Section 1 of the 36-year-old Presidential Decree (PD) 1689 which reduces from five to two persons involved to qualify for syndicated estafa or other forms of swindling calls for the imposition of life imprisonment as penalty.
“No matter how small or big a group, same punishment must be given. It should never be easy to escape after stealing the hard-earned money of other people,” she stressed.
SB 1694, on the other hand, would allow all crimes defined in the Republic Act 3815 or the Revised Penal Code (RPC), when committed through and with the use of virtual currency, to have a penalty that is one degree higher than what is provided for by the RPC.
“As legislators, we should not allow these kinds of crimes to go unnoticed and let the perpetrators easily get away with their evil schemes while fooling more people,” de Lima said.
The former Justce secretary said the criminal justice system must always be prepared in case virtual currency like “bitcoins” would be used in unlawful activities anew.
Recently, the alleged operator of New G Bitcoin Investment Trading Arnel Ordonio and wife Leonady, were arrested by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in an entrapment operation in Ilocos Sur last April 4.
The couple, who amassed P900 million, reportedly lured more than 100 people to invest into their online business which promised a 3-percent return on investments with payouts every 15 days.
De Lima noted that illegal activities involving virtual currency include “estafa where unscrupulous individuals entice unsuspecting people to purchase fake bitcoins, sending a virtual currency as payment for child pornography, or a public officer agreeing to perform an act in consideration of payment in bitcoins (direct bribery).”

Angara mulls probe on ‘bitcoin’ scam

Saturday, 14 April 2018 00:00 Published in Nation

Sen. Sonny Angara yesterday said he’s mulling of calling for an inquiry into the reported “bitcoin” investment scam in which nearly P1 billion was amassed by the alleged brains behind the illegal scheme.

Angara said he wants to know how large the alleged investment scam is, despite the recent arrest of the couple supposedly behind the bitcoin investments and if additional laws or amendments to existing ones are needed to stop other perpetrators of the scheme from victimizing innocent people.
“This is not the first time that we have seen such kind of scams that have victimized our hapless kababayan whose only intention is to earn legitimate income for their families. Their lack of knowledge of the financial system and investment, however, will only continue the cycle of victimization if we do not address this,” Angara said.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) recently arrested the couple Arnel and Leonady Ordonio, alleged to be behind the bitcoins investment scam, amassing as much as P900 million in cryptocurrency investments from their victims.
The couple, who reportedly amassed as much as P900 million in cryptocurrency investments from their victims, have allegedly promised those who they lured into investing with 30 percent interest in 16 days.
Authorities said the suspects would pay the interest at first before stonewalling their clients, a classic case of pyramiding scheme.
Angara noted how a number of Filipinos do not even have a basic grasp of the economic and financial concepts that had heaped on the country’s economy.
In the 2015 MasterCard Financial Literacy Index, the Philippines ranked second-worst among Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Countries) countries, ahead only of Indonesia.
A study by the Asian Development Bank also revealed that the Philippines did not have a national strategy for financial education and literacy.
“Such illiteracy hides recent economic gains from the minds of many people as it hinders them from participating meaningfully in the country’s notable ascent and economic growth,” Angara said.

Sen. Leila de Lima yesterday appealed to newly-designated Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and incoming Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde to order “genuine” investigations into the deaths of those associated and personally-related to self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa.

The detained senator, who is also being linked with Espinosa, issued the same appeal to her colleagues in the Senate to look into these cases if only “for truth’s sake.”
“Would it be too much to ask the new DoJ Secretary, the incoming PNP chief, and also the Senate to dig deeper into all these? I hope people realize that there is here a grand cover-up,” de lima claimed.
“Who are killing Kerwin Espinosa’s minions? Their cohorts in the illegal drug trade? The authorities? Kerwin’s real protectors/benefactors, which include government officials and men in the uniformed sector? Or, are they killing them as a warning to Kerwin, wanting him silenced for knowing too much, and also to prevent him from exposing the truth about my innocence?” she added.
If there are any ongoing investigations into the reported killings, which to date already involve at least nine persons, de Lima put into question the status of each case.
“One thing is sure though. No one is investigating, or will dare investigate, the circumstances surrounding this whole mystery, particularly Kerwin’s fabricated story about my links to him and his drug trade,” the senator said.
The most recent of which was last March 10 where Espinosa’s alleged right-hand man, Max Miro, who was killed during a supposed police operation in Ormoc City.
Allegedly, Miro resisted arrest and fired his gun, prompting operatives from the Regional Drug Enforcement Unit in Eastern Visayas, Ormoc City Police Office and Leyte Provincial Police Office who were out to serve the warrant to him to shoot back.
Besides Miro, there had been at least nine others associated with Espinosa who have been killed since August 2016, long before he was arrested in Abu Dhabi in October of that same year.
Edgar Allan Alvarez, one of Espinosa’s alleged drug sources, was killed on Aug. 11 2016, inside the Leyte Regional Penitentiary in Abuyog while two of his lawyers had also been killed.
Lawyer Rogelio Bato Jr. was killed on Aug. 24, 2016 in Tacloban City and his other lawyer, Jonah John Ungab, who assisted him in his appearance in the Senate was gunned down last Feb. 18 outside the Cebu City Hall of Justice.
Espinosa’s former wife, Annalou Llaguno was killed in Cebu City on Sept. 30, 2016 while his father, Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed inside his jail cell in Leyte on Nov. 5, 2016.
His brother-in-law, Jake Bolanio de la Cruz was killed on Aug. 8, 2017 in Davao City as well as his alleged bagman Ferdinand Rondina and former bodyguard Nelson Pepito.
Rondina was killed on Jan. 6, 2017 in Ormoc City while Pepito was on Dec. 1, 2017 in Albuera, Leyte.
De Lima alleged to have received a total of P8 million from Espinosa when she was campaigning for her senatorial bid in 2015.
Also yesterday, de Lima put into question Espinosa’s continuing coverage in the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) despite reports, shortly after testifying in the Senate, that he recanted some details in his testimony.
“I assume such testimony where he admitted to his drug dealings as Region 8’s biggest drug lord and pointed to so-called cohorts and protectors of his, was the very basis of his admission into the WPP,” she said.
“If that is the case, wouldn’t his reported recantation serve to nullify his WPP coverage on the ground of serious breach of his agreement with the government as represented by then Justice Secretary (Vitaliano) Aguirre (II) in his capacity as the WPP chief implementor?” the senator asked.
“To put it plainly—what is now the raison d’être for Kerwin’s WPP admission if he already disowned his previous admissions relative to his status as a big-time drug lord and his drug connections?” de Lima further asked.
Following his Senate appearance, PNP chief Directo General Ronald de la Rosa announced at a press conference that Espinosa took back his claims linking then Albuera, Leyte police chief Jovie Espenido to the illegal drugs trade in his province.

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