By DOMINIC GUTOMAN
MANILA – A Manila court has lifted the provisional freeze order on the bank account of women farmers group Amihan, saying it found no probable cause that it was being used for terror financing.
In a decision dated March 9, 2022, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 37 Judge Virgilio Macaraig said he found “no specific allegation or even a single transaction” that would prove that the bank accounts were being used to fund terrorism.”
This decision lifted the Provisional Asset Preservation Order (PAPO) issued by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) against Amihan, an organization of peasant women advocating for agrarian reform, and providing services to rural communities in the country.
In an earlier decision in November 2021, the Court of Appeals also found no basis to freeze the bank account of Amihan. The AMLC then filed an extension order to freeze Amihan’s assets. A hearing was initially set last April 1 but the court eventually penned its decision based on the evidence presented to them.
“It has already been decided by two courts that the claims of AMLC and NTF-ELCAC [National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict] are baseless and do not have any probable cause. They are already failing in the level of probable cause. How much more in higher degrees of proof that the court can require?” Amihan’s lawyer Jobert Pahilga told Bulatlat in a phone interview.
Read: Peasant women’s group decries AMLC’s freezing of its bank accounts
Pahilga said that the issuing of the freezing order by the AMLC stems from the testimony of two alleged rebel returnees, who claimed that Amihan was financing the New People’s Army.
The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was among the organizations designated as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council.
Their testimonies, however, proved nothing, the lawyer said.
“The AMLC and the NTF-ELCAC are exploiting the statements of alleged rebel surrenderees to suppress peoples’ organizations who are critical to the policies implemented by the government,” he added.
Impact on community programs
Pahilga said that the freezing order has affected Amihan’s programs in the communities they are working with. They were forced to stop their programs last year as they could not access their bank account.
“These (government) institutions, particularly the NTF-ELCAC, want to cripple the operations of Amihan, who has been a subject of their red-tagging for several years already,” Pahilga said, adding that this is unfortunate as communities they are working with have long been denied social services due them.
Apart from Amihan, several people’s organizations and church-based groups were also subjected to freeze orders.