Human rights group decries freeze order on bank accounts of dev’t NGO

Karapatan condemns the freeze order issued by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) on the accounts of the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC), a development NGO with partners nationwide focused on community-based disaster management.

In an order dated May 10, 2024, the AMLC ordered the CDRC’s accounts frozen allegedly because the latter is a direct recipient of funds from the bank accounts of Leyte Center for Development Inc. (LCDe), which are subject to a separate freeze order. An AMLC order dated May 2 had earlier frozen the bank accounts of the multi-awarded LCDe as well as the personal accounts of its staff.

The CDRC has filed a petition before the Court of Appeals questioning both the basis of the freeze order and the constitutionality of the AMLC’s power to freeze. In the same petition, the CDRC explained that the funds in question had been returned by LCDe as they exceeded what was intended for relief operations after Typhoon Agaton in April 2022.

The CDRC is but the latest development NGO to be targeted by the AMLC in the arbitrary and unjust exercise of its powers. Before the CRDC and LCDe, other NGOs with strong presence in impoverished and marginalized communuties like the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), the Amihan Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan), the Cebu-based Community Empowerment and Resource Network (CERNET) and the Negros-based Paghida-et Development Group had been maliciously red- and terror-tagged and their bank accounts frozen or their staff baselessly charged with violation of RA 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012. The freeze orders and court cases have paralyzed these NGOs’ operations and effectively sabotaged much-needed development, relief and rehabilitation projects, mostly in poor and far-flung communities.

Karapatan firmly stands in solidarity with the CDRC and all other affected NGOs in their fight against the AMLC’s unjust and arbitrary freeze orders which are issued after ex parte proceedings violative of the right to due process and providing little to no mechanisms for redress. It views these successive assaults against development NGOs as an escalation of the Marcos Jr. regime’s drive to suppress civil liberties, stifle dissent and further constrict civic space.