Anti-Money Laundering Council

AMLC freezes assets, bank accounts of Cordillera activists

Sherwin de Vera

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AMLC freezes assets, bank accounts of Cordillera activists

DECRY. Students rally in Baguio City to decry the red-tagging practice and criminalization of dissent as key human rights issues during the 50th Martial Law anniversary in 2022.

Sherwin De Vera/Rappler

The AMLC's move follows a resolution by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 7, designating four activists, along with two others, as terrorists

BAGUIO, Philippines – The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has issued an order to freeze the assets and bank accounts of four Cordillera activists who were earlier labeled as terrorists. 

The move follows a resolution by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) on June 7, designating the four indigenous peoples rights activists, along with two others, as terrorists.

Based on Resolution No. TF-67-2023, dated June 30, the AMLC has directed the “freezing without delay” of the properties and funds belonging to Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) leaders Windel Bolinget, Stephen Tauli, Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, and Sarah Abellon-Alikes.

The order covers the assets and funds that the six activists own and control, whether jointly or directly or indirectly, as well as any funds and other assets derived or generated from their ownership or indirect control. It also applies to people and entities who are acting on behalf or under their directions.

The order has affected the personal account of Taggaoa’s husband, Ronald, and CPA’s funds.

Ronald told Rappler on Sunday, July 16, that his bank informed him that it placed his account on hold because of the AMLC resolution. He received the letter on July 15.

“I was surprised because that is my personal account and has nothing to do with my wife,” said Ronald, who heads the Saint Louis University employees’ union.

In a July 17 text message, CPA secretary-general Sarah Dekdeken confirmed that the organization’s bank also put their funds on hold. She said they received the notice on July 12.

AMLC directed institutions covered by the resolution “to submit Suspicious Transaction Reports of all previous transactions of the designated persons.”

It warned that people and offices that would not abide by its directive “shall be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law” under the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

CPA’s appeal

CPA has called for the unfreezing of the bank accounts of the group and the activists and their families.

“The designation is unjust, without factual basis, and done with clear malicious intent to push individuals into silence and dismantle people’s organizations like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance,” the group said.

Taggaoa’s husband said they were consulting their lawyer.

“Challenging the government for its obligations to the people is never a crime… As citizens, it must be okay to speak our minds. As a government, it has a duty to listen and not to get even,” Ronald said.

Condemnation

Human rights groups and several international networks condemned the ATC’s move.

The human rights group Karapatan, for one, warned that the designation was “a prelude to graver attacks” against government critics, calling it “a virtual hit list.”

“With the State’s trumped-up accusations against these activists failing to prosper in courts, the ATC is now resorting to designation not only as a way of curtailing their movements and derailing their pro-people and human rights advocacies but to set the victims up for arrest on other trumped-up charges or worse, for involuntary disappearance or extrajudicial killing,” said Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay.

The groups Global Witness and Land is Life also expressed solidarity with the embattled indigenous peoples’ rights activists.

“This recent government announcement appears to be part of a state-sponsored pattern of ‘red tagging’ … and state-backed smear campaigns aimed at undermining their work advocating for the rights of communities and Indigenous peoples in the Cordillera region,” said Global Witness senior campaigner Rachel Cox.

Land is Life, a New York-based international coalition of indigenous peoples, called on the government to respect the rights and guarantee the safety of Bolinget, Tauli, Alikes, and Taggaoa, including CPA members and staff. – Rappler.com

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