This move to tighten cryptocurrency legislation follows the recent Bitcoin scandal where a husband and wife team, Arnel and Leonady Ordonio, managed to scam their victims out of just over USD 17 million after promising investors a 3% return on supposed Bitcoin investments with payouts every 15 days.
On Sunday, Senator de Lima suggested that such a crime should result in life imprisonment for perpetrators. She argued, “Knowing that virtual currency resembles money and that the possibilities of using it are endless, a higher penalty for its use on illegal activities is necessary.”
De Lima suggested that Philippines penal laws now needed to reflect “changing times” and consequently the legal system needed to be able to handle such an event.
The current legal situation in the Philippines regarding such crimes as embezzlement (estafa) requires a minimum of five perpetrators to be involved. The senator wants this reduced to two, which would then result in similar crimes in the future see convicted defendants facing life imprisonment or even the death sentence.
Lima categorizes Bitcoin crime as being cases 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)”.
Last month, the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a warning about another unregistered company operating as the Onecash Trading platform, an online cryptocurrency service, that promised 200% returns on investments over eight weeks.
The country has seen a dramatic surge in similar crime since Bitcoin’s rise in price not only began to attract investors but also the attention of fraudsters relying on victims’ lack of any real understanding of how the new virtual currencies worked in terms of trade and investment.