Philippine Senator Leila de Lima has filed a bill to impose stricter penalties for cryptocurrency-related crimes, due to the complexity of the investigation process, according to a press release from the Philippine Senate published Tuesday, March 13.
According to Senate Bill (SB) No. 1694, all crimes described by the Revised Penal Code (RPC) would incur a penalty one degree higher than usual if the crime involved the use of “virtual currency”. De Lima further suggested a seizure of cryptocurrency used in illegal activity, unless it came from a guiltless party. De Lima stated in the press release:
"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, the measures aim to adapt the government’s criminal justice system to what they see as a new type of crime in order to combat more frequent cases of illegal activity involving cryptocurrency. Among those, De Lima listed fake Bitcoin selling, cryptocurrency corruption, using virtual currency funds as payment for illegal products, money laundering, and terrorist financing.
"Since virtual currency resembles money, the possibilities are endless," the Senator claimed.
Currently the Philippine central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), defines cryptocurrency as "any type of digital unit that is used as a medium of exchange or a form of digitally stored value created by agreement within the community of virtual currency users," according to the senate’s post.
In February 2017, BSP recognized Bitcoin (BTC) as a legal payment method, stressing that the decision does not constitute an official endorsement by the Philippine government or status as legal tender, as Bitcoin is not issued by the central bank. Later in November 2017, the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced its plans to consider cryptocurrencies as securities.