By Leonel Abasola

Senator Risa Hontiveros (PNA file photo)

MANILA – Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution urging the Senate to investigate the alleged “abusive and possibly illegal” debt collection practices of online lending companies.

In filing Senate ResolutionNo, 882, Hontiveros cited earlier reports of a lending company allegedly sending a funeral hearse to the residence of one of its debtors with an overdue loan, along with a threat: “Walang nakukulong sa utang, pero may namamatay” (No one can be jailed because of debt, but some are killed because of it).

She noted that this kind of harassment is nothing new.

“For several years, countless Filipinos have found themselves not only deep in debt but also victimized by profane language, a barrage of messages and calls threatening violence, illegal access to contacts lists and file folders, blatant misuse of personal information, public shaming and defamation, and the imposition of ballooning interest rates, often as high as 15 percent per month;” she said.

Hontiveros likewise cited reports from the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) stating that many perpetrators are foreign-based entities operating lending activities without authorization from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

“This online lending model apparently originated in the Chinese mainland, with Chinese fintech lenders using the phone contact lists of their borrowers to harass their colleagues, family, and friends,” she said.

Hontiveros added that despite the SIM Registration Act (R.A. No. 11934) and the efforts of the PNP-ACG, National Privacy Commission (NPC), and SEC to regulate the conduct of online lending companies, illegal and unfair debt collection practices continue to proliferate, adversely affecting the most vulnerable of Filipinos who rely on small short-term loans to meet day-to-day expenses.

Worse, she said reports indicate that these online money lending operations, seemingly protected by anonymity, have also been used to mask illicit cross-border money flows.

“While debts validly agreed upon must be settled, debtors do not deserve the inhumane turmoil inflicted upon them. These abusive and illegal debt collection practices should be investigated, and appropriate measures should be enacted to address it,” Hontiveros said. (PNA)