AMLC freezes bank accounts of red-tagged farmers’ group
MANILA, Philippines — The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has frozen the bank accounts of another organization allegedly linked to communist rebels, a move denounced by the human rights watchdog Karapatan as a violation of a United Nations declaration recognizing the right of groups and individuals to solicit and use funds to promote “fundamental freedoms.”
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on Friday said the order to freeze the accounts of Amihan, an organization of peasant women, was part of a “deplorable and orchestrated scheme to vilify” the group and other organizations as “terrorist fronts” in order to curtail their access to funds.
“That the government is clearly planning to replicate this scheme of restricting the resources and funding of organizations under the guise of counterterrorism is a threat to civil society,” Palabay said in a statement.
She said the order violated Article 13 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which stated that everyone had the right, “individually and in association with others, to solicit, receive and utilize resources for the express purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means.”
Amihan said it was notified by its bank on Wednesday that AMLC had issued a resolution to freeze its accounts.
Resolution No. TF-38 dated May 5 was supposedly in accordance with Section 11 of Republic Act No. 10168, or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012, the group said.
It received also on Wednesday a Court of Appeals resolution that extended the freeze order by six months.
Bank accounts of eight other nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups based in Mindanao were also covered by the order, Amihan said.
“It is clear that this did not undergo due process as we were not given the chance to explain our side and answer the allegations,” Amihan said in a statement.
“The resolution was based on the unfounded allegation given by two witnesses claiming to be surrenderees that we are involved in financing the activities of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army),” Amihan said.
The so-called witnesses were unknown to and were not involved with Amihan, it said.
The peasant group said its aim was to uphold and advance of the rights and interests of farmers and their families. These goals are clearly unrelated to terrorism, it said.
Amihan said that it would challenge the freeze order.
Freeze orders were imposed on the bank accounts of the Catholic Church-based Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in 2019, also for alleged funding of terrorist activities.
Earlier this year, the bank accounts of United Church of Christs in the Philippines-Haran Center in Davao City also were frozen after an AMLC investigation reportedly showed that the Protestant group’s assets were used to finance terrorism.
The AMLC law disallows its officers from speaking to the media about these cases.
On Dec. 23, 2020, the AMLC approved the freeze order on bank accounts and other assets of the CPP-NPA and “other designated terrorist groups,” according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
The freeze order followed the classification of the CPP-NPA as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).
Earlier this month, the wife of political detainee Vicente Ladlad appealed to AMLC chair Benjamin Diokno, who is governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, to unlock her husband’s bank accounts that contained purely reparation funds for human rights violations he suffered during the Marcos dictatorship.
Ladlad was a consultant to the rebels in the aborted peace talks and one of 19 people declared as terrorists by the ATC.
Palabay said Karapatan supported the call by Amihan and other organizations to lift the freeze order on their bank accounts.
“The arbitrariness of all these actions should lead many, especially our legislators and the Supreme Court, to take a second look at counterterror legislations such as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act and the new Anti-Terrorism Act and their impact on rights and civil liberties, most especially the right to due process and the right of human rights defenders and their organizations to defend rights and utilize resources for such ends,” she said. INQ
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