Philippine anti-terrorism law

EXCLUSIVE: Gov’t slaps terrorist designation, freezes funds of award-winning development NGO, officers

Inday Espina-Varona

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EXCLUSIVE: Gov’t slaps terrorist designation, freezes funds of award-winning development NGO, officers

COMMUNITY WORK. This file photo shows Leyte Center for Development's Super Typhoon Yolanda response in Marabut, Samar, in November 2013.

Courtesy of Leyte Center for Development, Inc

(UPDATED) PSBank and Metropolitan Bank in Tacloban have been ordered to freeze the accounts of Leyte Center for Development Inc., which has done disaster response work with the government and international partners

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has handed down resolutions freezing five bank accounts of an Eastern Visayas-based development organization that has won awards for alleviating poverty and responding to the needs of communities hit by natural disasters.

Also included in two separate freeze orders sent to Metrobank and PSBank are two personal joint accounts of Leyte Center for Development Inc. (LCDe) executive director Jazmin Aguisanda Jerusalem and her son, Carlo, and three more joint bank accounts administered by the staff of the 36-year-old nongovernment organization based in Barangay Libertad, Palo town, in Leyte.

The PSBank and Metropolitan Bank branches in Tacloban received the order to freeze signed by AMLC executive director Matthew M. David on May 2, Jerusalem told Rappler in a telephone interview.

The order stemmed from AMLC Resolution TF-89 dated April 6.

The resolution linked the accounts to terrorist financing and cited sanctions mandated under Section 8 of Republic Act No. 101168 of the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 (TFPSA).

There is the “existence of probable course that LCDe and Jazmin Jerusalem are making available funds to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP-NPA), a designated terrorist organization,” the council claimed.

The directive gave David or a designated AMLC official the authority to file a petition with the Court of Appeals for an extension of the freeze order.

Aside from Jerusalem, LCDe staff Chadwisk Arandia Suazo, Reniel Ellorando Sanica, Fenna Joyce Muti Moscare, Meleda Balais Fune, and Reniel Ellorando Sanica were mentioned in the resolution.

The AMLC April 2 memo to PSBank and MetroBank said the LCDe and its head and staff had earlier been “designated as a terrorist group/individual.”

Pattern of harassment

Jerusalem called the AMLC’s action arbitrary, unjust, and unfair.

“For 36 years (1988 until the present), LCDe has dedicated its work for the poor and vulnerable through Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programs as well as emergency response.”

“I see this as harassment,” Jerusalem said.

“We vehemently deny the allegations of being terrorists. The fantastic claims are not new,” Jerusalem told Rappler.

Adult, Female, Person
LCDe distributes cash aid in June 2023 to 245 beneficiaries who are still hard up after Typhoon Odette destroyed their livelihood and houses on December 16, 2021. The assistance comes from Salamat CARE Philippines and the German ADH. Photo courtesy of LCDe

More than a decade back, she and a former journalist found themselves charged in a case related to a purge of rebels suspected of being government spies.

The case was dropped, she said, because her companion was only in Grade 2 when the killings happened. Jerusalem was also just a college student in Cebu.

She had found her name in previous lists of designated terrorists that the courts junked.

A former rebel in January this year tried to prove the military’s tale that the LCDe works for the communist rebellion.

“She claimed to have organized the LCDe in 2002, which was funny. We have our SEC papers from 1988,” said Jerusalem.

During the anniversary of martial law on September 21, 2021, the military organized rallies to harass the LCDe, roping in farmers who, however, warned the staff.  

An officer in civilian clothes, Jerusalem said, chided a barangay official for letting in communists to the community.

“She told him, ‘They have been here since I was in Grade 4,’” Jerusalem recalled.

Government, international partners

The LCDe focuses on citizenry-based disaster response and sustainable community development. It has partnered with 23 local government units (LGUs) in Samar and Leyte islands, and receives support for its programs from private corporations and at least seven countries.

Posts after posts on its Facebook page shows engagements with LGU officials.

On May 1, while labor rallies filled the streets of many cities, the LCDe held a disaster management training workshop for eight communities of Taft and Can-avid towns in Eastern Samar. It donated Camp Coordination and Camp Management kits with portable beds, water containers, cooking pots, and trash bins to the Taft LGU.

In March, it signed a memorandum of understanding with Arteche town and CARE Philippines for a health project focusing on non-communicable diseases.

LCDe and its partners helped more than 3,000 families in these Eastern Visayas towns with an Anticipatory Action, Disaster Preparedness cash support program.

GERMAN AMBASSADOR to the Philippines Dr. Andreas Michael Pfaffernoschke joins LCDe in a visit to the rice mill that the embassy granted to poor farmers. Photo courtesy of LCDe

In January, the German ambassador to the Philippines, Dr. Andreas Pfaffernoschke, joined the LCDe in a visit to the rice mill that the embassy granted to poor farmers, who shared their lives with the diplomat.

A few weeks after, soldiers gathered farmer beneficiaries and accused them of accepting aid from the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

“I called the ambassador, who was displeased. He said he would send a box of stickers from the embassy, which we could put on the mill. And that’s what we did,” Jerusalem said.

Jerusalem was the only Filipino woman out of 10 awardees who received the United Nations WIN DRR (Women in DRR) leadership award for Asia Pacific in 2021. 

LCDe’s COVID-19 response in 2020 helped partners distribute soap, sanitary pads, and education material to 12,000 in the Eastern Samar towns of Jipapad, San Policarpio, and Arteche.

The National Anti-Poverty Commission recognized Jerusalem in December 2023 for her 15 years of service as a regional council member.

The organization reaped praise in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, helping distribute food, shelter kits, houses, and cash for work to 23,000 families in 11 municipalities, with aid from global groups CARE, Diakonie, World Jewish Relief, Peace Wind, Civic Force, Hope Bridge, and Mercy Relief.

Jerusalem received INGO CARE Germany’s 2017 International Climate Heroine Award, given to the most Outstanding Woman Leader in Disaster Risk Reduction.

The Philippine National Volunteers Association named the organization the Most Outstanding NGO in Volunteer Work and Leader in 2015.

The Department of National Defense named it in its 2006 National Gawad Kalasag Award as an Exemplary NGO in Disaster Preparedness and Humanitarian Response.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development Office in Eastern Visayas (Region 8) named LCDe its Most Outstanding Partner in the 2003 Salamat Po Award. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    The Government’s repression machinery is functioning now. Perhaps behind such a move is a mighty politician who is envious that this development organization has outperformed its political machinery. This is what political jealousy can do.

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