CITING the steady rise in cases of online fraud that erode public trust in financial institutions, the head of the Senate Banks committee on Monday pushed for timely enactment of the Anti-Financial Account Scamming Act (Afasa). Such will boost the waning public trust in banks and strengthen financial institutions, said Senator Mark A. Villar.
The chairman of the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies led the committee hearing on three Senate Resolutions, four Senate Bills and one House Bill, collectively called as the Afasa.
Villar pointed out at the hearing that the number of phishing attacks in the Philippines during the first half of 2022 already surpassed the number of attacks in the whole year of 2021. In that period, over 1.8 million attacks have been detected compared to 1.34 million attacks in 2021, he added.
The rising cases of online scams that victimize Filipinos are extremely concerning, Villar stressed, noting data from Kaspersky ZAO Lab that cases of financial phishing attempts in the Philippines from February to April 2022 were highest in Southeast Asia.
The Afasa, he said, will effectively deal with cases of online fraud, providing a regulatory framework that penalizes scammers and entails safeguard measures to protect Filipinos and their financial accounts.
“Because of the lack of a regulatory framework that penalizes these scammers, there are and there will be more victims in the foreseeable future. Even as we speak, there are individuals being victimized by these scammers who seize every vulnerable opportunity available to them. We cannot watch from the sidelines as scammers take advantage of our people,” Villar added.
“Being a key component of our economy, our banking and financial institutions must remain strong and responsive to this persistent threat. We should not give these scammers an avenue and more time to victimize our people. We must act now. Take a stand with us in protecting our banks, economy and the Filipinos. Walang lugar ang mga scammer sa bagong Pilipinas [There is no place for scammers in the new Philippines]!”
The public committee hearing was followed by an Executive Session due to the confidentiality and sensitivity of the issues and information that will be discussed. This is to ensure that law enforcement measures being undertaken to apprehend and prosecute scammers will not be disrupted.