MANILA — The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has ordered the freezing of properties and funds that may have links to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters Sunday.
This development came after the Anti-Terrorism Council, on December 9, designated the CPP/NPA as well as groups linked to ISIS and Maute Group as terrorists under the New Anti-Terrorism Act.
“The AMLC can already move in the premises at any time after due designation by the ATC,” Guevarra explained.
In a notice signed by AMLC Executive Director Mel Georgie Racela on December 23, AMLC directed all “covered institutions” and government agencies to freeze “without delay” property or funds owned or controlled by the CPP/NPA whether wholly or jointly, directly or indirectly, or those derived from other funds or assets directly or indirectly owned by both organizations.
The order also covers property funds of persons or entitles “acting on behalf or at the direction of the CPP/NPA.”
“Covered institutions” under the Anti-Money Laundering Act (RA 9160) and the Terrorism Financing and Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10168) include banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions required to report suspected money laundering activities to the AMLC.
The freeze order covers “related accounts” or “all accounts opened and maintained for the benefit of the CPP-NPA,” according to Racela, who explained covered institutions will bear the burden of analyzing “accounts behavior.”
“The identification of RAs (related accounts) will be done by all covered persons to whom the Freeze Order is addressed. The FO is intended to preemptively deprive designated terror org of resources to prevent possible terror attacks,” he said.
The freeze order is effective for 20 days under the Anti-Terrorism Act but it could be extended by the Court of Appeals to as long as 6 months.
The 20-day period begins once covered institutions freeze CPP/NPA’s assets.
Reacting to the report on AMLC’s freeze order, CPP-NPA information officer Marco Valbuena on Twitter said the CPP/NPA are “not stupid to have bank accounts w/c AMLC can freeze.”
“This order will be used against Duterte’s critics & opposition forces on baseless pretext that funds are “funneled” to the NPA. This aim to suppress work of human rights defenders, unions and other organizations,” he warned.
The CPP earlier Sunday issued a statement that it will not seek delisting from the Philippine government’s list of terrorist groups since they are “outside the legal jurisdiction” of the Philippine government.
“The Party does not recognize the judicial authority of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines.) Neither does the CPP recognize the Anti-Terror Law as a legitimate law,” it said.
“The ATL is an anti-democratic law which was enacted for the purpose of suppressing the broad democratic forces who oppose Duterte’s tyrannical rule and who stand against his plans to perpetuate his rule. It is merely using the veil of ‘anti-terrorism’ to suppress and clampdown on patriotic and democratic forces and delegitimize their mass-oriented cause,” it added.
The Anti-Terrorism Council’s power to designate terrorist groups whose assets may then be frozen by the AMLC without the prior knowledge and participation of the suspected terrorists or terrorist groups is one of the hotly-contested provisions of the ATA.
Thirty-seven petitions are challenging the law before the Supreme Court.
But even before the ATA took effect, authorities used RA 10168 as legal basis to freeze the assets of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, a group of nuns accused of having ties with the CPP-NPA, raising fears this could only get worse under the ATA.
The AMLC has also issued a similar freeze order against properties and funds tied to the Islamic State East Asia, Maute Group and associated groups.