Philippines Freezes Bank Accounts of Communist Party’s Political Wing

Dennis Jay Santos and Jeoffrey Maitem
Davao, Philippines
2021-07-21
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Philippines Freezes Bank Accounts of Communist Party’s Political Wing Members of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ political wing block traffic in Quezon city, Metro Manila, as they push for peace talks with the government, April 23, 2018.
AP

The Philippines this week froze bank accounts linked to the political wing of the country’s outlawed communist party, which has been waging a 52-year-long insurgency, after the government designated it a terrorist group.

A resolution issued by the Anti-Money Laundering Council on Monday covers any property or funds owned or controlled by the National Democratic Front (NDF), the party’s political wing, including connected accounts, officials said.

“All persons, organizations, associations or groups of persons whose property or funds are frozen, including related accounts are hereby informed that they may avail of the remedies under Republic Act No. 11479, otherwise known as Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,” the resolution reads. 

The order would “take effect immediately against the National Democratic Front in response to the designation of NDF as a terrorist organization last month,” the council said. It is not restricted to those directly related to or who may be linked to a specific terrorist act, plot or threat, the council said. 

Council Executive Director Mel Racela told reporters that all leads would be investigated to identify these accounts. 

“While there is no definite expiration period for the freeze order and the investigation, a party aggrieved by the designation and the freeze may file a petition with the Court of Appeals to question the freeze order,” Racela said on Wednesday. 

The government of President Rodrigo Duterte ended peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines in 2017 after accusing its military wing, the New People’s Army, of carrying out attacks despite the peace efforts. The government proscribed both the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations late last year, and added the NDF to the list in June.

Move called ‘pathetic’

Xandra Liza Bisenio, daughter of jailed NDF consultant Rey Claro Casambre, said her family’s real assets could not be found.

“Freezing my father’s and others’ almost negligible accounts purportedly to cripple the communist movement is pathetic. Instead, it has deprived my elderly parents of their funds for essential needs, magnified the crisis of the pandemic and is bringing anxiety to our family and friends,” Bisenio told BenarNews. 

“We had felt the adverse impact of this action a month earlier. We attempted, as was usual, to withdraw cash to pay for some groceries, and got the message: ‘The account does not exist,’” Bisenio said.

Apart from Casambre’s assets, two bank accounts of NDF consultant Vicente Ladlad were frozen, according to Cristina Palabay, the secretary-general of human rights group Karapatan. 

“The freezing of his accounts and future attempts of civil forfeiture not only deny Ladlad’s right to use the funds for his medical needs, these also seek to invalidate his claims to justice,” Palabay said.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana welcomed the council’s move, noting there had been probable cause to brand the NDF as a terrorist organization. 

Exiled communist party founder Jose Maria Sison had said the NDF was one of the party’s “allied organizations,” Lorenzana noted. 

“His wife, Juliet De Lima-Sison was also recently named as the interim chairperson of the NDF negotiating panel,” Lorenzana said. “The CPP/NPA themselves continue to launch attacks against the Filipino people, victimizing innocent civilians and destroying billions’ worth of crucial public infrastructure for a principle that has long since been rendered obsolete.”

Lorenza said he hoped “this development justifies and enables the defense sector to move forward in its efforts to address internal security concerns and lay the foundations of sustainable, lasting peace and national development.”

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