Karapatan calls out AMLC on another arbitrary freezing of women peasant group’s bank accounts

Human rights watchdog Karapatan decried the recent freezing of bank accounts of the Amihan Federation of Peasant Women as it criticized the arbitrary action by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which reportedly released the order on May 5 through Resolution No. TF-38, series of 2021, based on alleged violations of the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act.

“The basis of the said freeze order appears to be based solely on the highly questionable testimonies of individuals who made allegations against Amihan. How this was given course by the AMLC is a mystery, considering Amihan was only given notice of the freeze order on Tuesday, June 8, and it has not been informed of any proceeding which led to the AMLC resolution. The said resolution is also not made public through its website,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

The freeze order also reportedly covered the accounts of eight other NGOs, mostly based in Mindanao. The judicial affidavits of the two alleged witnesses were submitted by National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director General Alex Paul Monteagudo to the AMLC.

Previously, bank accounts of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran Center were frozen in the same manner. Accounts of individuals designated by the Anti-Terrorism Council, including political prisoner and peace consultant Vicente Ladlad, were also ordered frozen. The RMP is set to face the charges against them today before the Manila Regional Trial Court.

Palabay asserted that the freeze order against Amihan, the RMP, and the UCCP Haran Center violates the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states that “[e]veryone has the right, individually and in association with others, to solicit, receive and utilize resources for the express purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means.”

“The freeze order against Amihan is part of a deplorable and orchestrated scheme to vilify Amihan and other organizations as ‘terrorist fronts’ in order to curtail their access to resources and funds. That the government is clearly planning to replicate this scheme of restricting the resources and funding of organizations under the guise of counterterrorism is a threat to civil society,” Palabay stated.

“We support the call of Amihan, RMP, and other organizations to lift the said freeze order on their bank accounts. The arbitrariness of all these actions should lead many, especially our legislators and the Supreme Court, to take a second look at counter-terror legislations such as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act and the new Anti-Terrorism Act and their impact on rights and civil liberties, most especially the right to due process and the right of human rights defenders and their organizations to defend rights and utilize resources for such ends,” the Karapatan official ended.