Senate presses crackdown vs loan sharks, online lending firm scams

THE Senate is poised to pass a resolution pressing for a crackdown against loan sharks and cast a wider net to catch on-line lending scam firms beyond the reach of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks and Financial Institutions, confirmed over the weekend the panel is also considering “a remedial legislation to address possible gaps in the existing policies being enforced by government regulating bodies and other concerned agencies following the emergence of online cash loan services of unlicensed lenders.”

This as the Senator prodded the BSP to promptly issue an advisory for the public “not to transact with these types of predatory lending.”

Gatchalian shared concerns over reports on rising incidents of death threats and suicides linked to unpaid debts from loan shark syndicates.

“Dahil sa marahas na pamamaraan nila ng paniningil, may mga biktimang nabalitang nag-suicide at marami na rin umano ang nakararanas ng death threats,” Gatchalian said. [Due to their violent method of billing, some victims have been reported to have committed suicide and many are already experiencing death threats.]

He aired hopes this would serve as a lesson to those looking for quick loans.

“Magsilbing aral din sana ito sa mga naghahanap ng mapag-uutangan nang mabilis. Dapat marunong silang kumilatis kung kaduda-duda ang pamamaraan ng pagpapautang ng isang kumpanya.” [May this also serve as a lesson to those who are looking for a quick loan. They should be able to discern if a company’s lending method is questionable.]

The senator noted that his office continues to receive complaints from victims of online lending companies and lending apps, noting that the majority of them claimed to have suffered “various forms of grave threats, intimidation, and public-shaming from debt collectors.”

Gatchalian recalled that in December last year, the SEC revoked the certificate of authority of online firm Super Cash Lending Corp. after it was found to have engaged in unfair debt collection practices. The National Privacy Commission (NPC) last February, on the other hand, recommended the prosecution of Fynamics Lending Inc., the operator of the PondoPeso online lending app, for harassing and public-shaming delinquent borrowers and for violating the data privacy law.

At the same time, the lawmaker pressing for the early enactment of the proposed Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Gatchalian’s Senate Bill 1366 prohibits debt collectors from harassing or threatening the debtor and his or her family with death or physical injuries, inflict harm on the debtor’s reputation or give misleading claims that non-payment of debt will result to arrest, imprisonment, garnishment or sale of any property. It also provides that creditors and debt collectors are also barred from accessing personal information of the debtor without the consent of the concerned person.

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