The Philippine government, through the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), will start freezing “related accounts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples’ Army (CPP-NPA).
The freeze order was approved by AMLC Executive Director Mel Racela on December 23, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Sunday, December 27.
Racela said that while the freeze order has no specific names and just “a general reference to the CPP/NPA,” the freeze order will eventually cover “related accounts.”
“Related accounts mean all accounts opened and maintained for the benefit of said organization, the identification of which – the banks and other covered persons – will play a very important role,” Racela told reporters on Sunday.
A notice of resolution uploaded by AMLC on its website on Sunday said the freeze order will cover property and/or funds that are “directly or indirectly” owned or controlled by the CPP-NPA.
This move is authorized under the hotly-contested anti-terror law, which says that AMLC can freeze assets of a group of people designated as terrorists by the Philippines’ Anti-Terrorism Council. The designation was made discreetly by the council on December 9.
“The Freeze Order is intended to preemptively deprive designated terror organization of resources to prevent possible terror attacks,” said Racela.
‘Great danger’ to red-tagged groups
This puts red-tagged groups in “great danger” of having their assets frozen, said lawyer Kristina Conti of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC).
PILC is the lawyer of religious group Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) whose assets were frozen by AMLC on the accusation that they are being used to finance the NPA.
AMLC froze RMP’s assets even before the enactment of the anti-terror law, using Republic Act (RA) No. 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act.
“There is great danger in the determination of probable cause or any grounds to investigate and freeze accounts under the terror law,” said Conti.
“In the case of RMP, its accounts were frozen by the AMLC ex parte or without its participations, without a direct designation of RMP, and with only the barest allegation that RMP is connected to the CPP-NPA,” Conti added.
The government’s basis in freezing RMP’s assets were testimonies of two people who claim to be rebel “surrenderees,” and who linked the nun group to the NPA.
A Manila court judge who upheld the freezing of RMP’s account cited Melissa Comiso, identified as RMP-Northern Mindanao Region’s financial officer, arrested during a search in Butuan after a tip that they were helping the NPAs in the area.
“Anybody/any group that has been forced affiliated with the CPP-NPA by the Duterte administration may fall within the mantle of designation and more specifically, terrorist financing coverage,” said Conti.
How long is the freeze valid?
Under both the anti-terror law and RA 10168, AMLC can freeze assets on its own but only for a period not exceeding 20 days. To extend that, AMLC must go to the Court of Appeals.
Racela said the 20-day period will start to run once the “related accounts” are frozen “based on the analysis of accounts behavior.”
ISIS, Daesh-related accounts to be frozen too
The AMLC also issued Resolution No. TF-34, dated December 23, freezing the bank accounts and other assets of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Southeast Asia and other Daesh-related groups:
- Dawlatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masrik
- Dawlatul Islamiyyah Waliyatul Mashriq
- IS East Asia Division
- Maute Group
- Islamic State East Asia
- Maute ISIS
- Grupong ISIS,
- Grupo ISIS
- Khilafah Islamiyah
- Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao
- Ansharul Khilafah
- Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters-Bungo
- Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters-Abubakar
- Daulah Islamiyah
- Jama’atu al-Muhajirin wal Ansar fil Filibin
The AMLC based its order from ATC’s designation of the said groups as terrorist organizations, associations, or groups of persons from the December 9 resolution. The AMLC resolution did not distinguish if some of the above-listed names were alternate names or spellings for a particular group. – Rappler.com