Peace consultants have no assets to freeze, only martial law compensation – families

Which assets do you freeze, ask the families of peace consultants designated as terrorists by the Philippine anti-terror council, when they have close to nothing except martial law reparations?

The anti-terror council designated 19 people, many of them peace consultants, as such. The designation's purpose under the anti-terror law is to freeze assets to stop alleged terror financing.

Designation is an added power, highly opposed because of its arbitrariness. It is a power solely held by an executive body, with proceedings done in secret. Proscription by court is an entirely different process.

"We do not own any assets or private property," said Sharon Silva, wife of designated Adelberto Silva in a news conference on Friday, May 14, adding that "we have devoted our entire lives – for Adel, about 50 years of his life – to working for the rights of workers."

Xandra Casambre, daughter of Rey Claro Casambre, said she cannot think of any asset that could be frozen by the government. Casambre said that aside from their activism, her mother earned as a translator while her father relied on honorarium for speaking engagements.

"Definitely wala silang na-amass na any wealth at ang nakadiin sa pamilya namin ay mamuhay ng simple," said Casambre.

(They definitely did not amass any wealth, and it was always taught to us as family to live a simple life.)

"Si Tatay Rey, I always tell friends, kapag nagkekwentuhan, para makapagpasalubong ng isang supot ng mani kay nanay, pinipili niyang maglakad pauwi imbes na mag tricycle halimbawa, at kung may regular siyang maibabahagi sa iba, hindi salapi kundi mga bayabas at apple mango mula sa backyard namin," said Casambre.

(My father, I always tell friends during our conversations, would choose to walk rather than ride a tricycle to be able to bring home a bag of peanuts for my mother. And if there's something he regularly shares with others, it's not money, but guava and apple mangoes from our backyard.)

Call to Central Bank

Fides Lim, wife of another designated peace consultant, Vicente Ladlad, said the only significant amount in her husband's bank account is compensation from the human rights board as a martial law victim.

Part of the government's transitional justice mechanisms after Ferdinand Marcos' martial law is pay compensation to the victims of human rights violations during that dark era in Philippine history.

"(The martial law compensation) can be interpreted as his whole possession, which comes from his sufferings during martial law as a political prisoner and being a desaparecido because of the abduction of his first wife Leticia in November 1975," said Lim.

Under the law, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) can immediately move to freeze the assets of those designated as terrorists, but only for 20 days, after which they can seek authorization from the Court of Appeals to extend it not longer than 6 months.

The AMLC is chaired by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) governor Benjamin Diokno.

"Ang gusto ko lang iparating sa BSP, kasi naniniwala ako (what I want to tell the BSP, because I believe) that the line has to hold somewhere, in the same way that judges are doing their best to hold the line, that the BSP under Governor Benjamin Diokno will hold the line and not allow the full sequestration or even any kind of meddling in the only amount or only possession that Vic has left under his name," said Lim.

Silva said she fears that the designation will actually be used "against other persons, against other organizations, especially activist organizations."

"It will now be very, very easy for them to link unrelated, very perfectly legal organizations, and put therefore a vast number of people and organizations at the mercy of the anti-terror council," said Silva.

Silva said her family also fears what this designation could mean even to their most apolitical relatives. "They are very apolitical persons and yet this high level of anxiety is happening," said Silva.

Silva, Ladlad and Casambre are all in jail and on trial for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Past actions

Even before the anti-terror law was passed, the Philippine government froze the assets of the nun group Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) for alleged terrorism financing.

The RMP is a 50-year-old non-profit that does grassroots work with the rural poor, and whose funding comes from local and international grantors mostly from Europe.

It was also revealed during oral arguments in the Supreme Court by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo that AMLC had made an initial finding that there is likelihood that the funds of progressive women's group Gabriela is linked to the armed rebels New Peoples' Army (NPA).

The second junction of the oral arguments sought to scrutinize the government's basis for linking activists to armed communist rebels, but when National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr was called, he only again red-tagged such groups without challenge.

Anti-terror law petitioners have filed a joint motion asking the Supreme Court not to call back Esperon for Day 9 on Monday, May 17, and to expunge his earlier red-tagging off court records. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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