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Gov’t freeze of Casambre bank accounts ‘pathetic’

[UPDATED] The government’s freeze order of a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant’s bank accounts is a pathetic move that failed to touch his real treasures, his family said.

Xandra Liza Bisenio, daughter of jailed NDFP consultant Rey Claro Casambre, said their family’s real assets and their most valued possessions cannot be found in her father’s modest bank accounts the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) recently ordered frozen.

“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 said in a forum marking the first anniversary of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 last July 3.

Bisenio said they managed to get copies of official bank documents last June 16 that confirmed Casambre’s bank accounts have been frozen in accordance with ATC Resolution 17 and AMLC Resolution TF-40 (2021).

“We had felt the adverse impact of this action a month earlier, even before the announcement of the designation (of Casambre and others as so-called terrorists). We attempted, as was usual, to withdraw cash from Mr. Casambre’s ATM account to pay for some groceries, and got the message: ‘The account does not exist,’” Bisenio said.

She added that Casambre’s bank accounts are modest and do not deserve suspicion and subsequent closure.

Bisenio said Casambre’s bank deposits are no more than accumulated savings from allowances as executive director of the Philippine Peace Center and wife Cora’s income as researcher-translator.

She however said her parents’ modest monetary assets are not their family’s source of joy, security and peace of mind.

“They lie in our lifetime commitment to serve the common good, in solidarity with the downtrodden who are the real giants and heroes in this world. Intangible yet real and vibrant, these treasures are inextricably embedded in our minds, beyond the reach of any state entity, and silently but fiercely ablaze in our hearts, which no statute can ever freeze,” she said.

Rey Claro and Cora were arrested while on their way home to Cavite in December 2018 and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, a standard case slapped against arrested activists by the police and military.

The prosecutor however found the charges “preposterous” that paved the way for Cora’s early release but Rey Claro remains in jail for separate murder and attempted murder charges of allegedly participating in a New People’s Army ambush in Lupon, Davao Oriental in September 2018.

Casambre’s bank accounts have been frozen after fellow NDFP consultant Vicente Ladlad’s two Landbank accounts have been closed in May this year. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[ERRATUM: The original version of this report erroneously said the Casambre family publicly asked for the unfreezing of their bank accounts. They made no such claim in their statement, hence this corrected version. The reporter apologizes.]

AMLC freezes NDFP consultant’s bank account; immoral and reprehensible order, wife says

Funds consist solely of reparations received by Ladlad for human rights violations he suffered under martial law, Fides Lim reveals.

The wife of a jailed National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant assailed the freezing of his bank accounts containing compensations for human rights violations suffered during Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law years.

Fides Lim questioned the morality of the freeze order and appealed to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Benjamin Diokno to reverse the directive against NDFP consultant Vicente Ladlad’s bank accounts with the government-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

Ladlad’s two accounts, an ATM Visa Debit Card and the attached savings deposit, were ordered frozen following his designation as a “terrorist” on May 13 by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

Ladlad is among the several detained peace consultants of the National Democratic Front ordered arrested after peace negotiations were aborted by President Duterte in 2017.

In a May 31 letter to Diokno, concurrent chairperson of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, Lim expressed distress over the freezing of Ladlad’s LBP account, calling it immoral and illegal.

“[T]hat consist solely and purely of the compensation that Vic received from the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) in May 2018 plus the compensation from Atty. Robert Swift in August 2019 from human rights class suits in reparation for Vic’s political imprisonment and torture during martial law and for the abduction and enforced disappearance of his first wife Leticia Pascual Ladlad in November 1975,” Lim said.

She said the two Land Bank accounts were opened in May 2018 when the HRVCB required approved eligible claimants to open a savings account at their nearest Land Bank branch to facilitate the deposit of the monetary compensation.

“Any investigation would easily reveal the official origin of those deposits and why it is wrongful, in fact immoral and reprehensible, to subject them to any freeze order as this would only perpetuate the injustice and tragedy that those accounts seek to atone for and indemnify,” she explained.

“Clearly, the funds are not from money laundering or terrorism financing but resulted from Republic Act No. 10368, otherwise known as the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which established the HVRCB to decide on all claims,” Lim said in her letter, adding that authorities can see that the accounts were never used to launder funds for any illegal activity.

She noted that any investigation would also reveal that the reparation was in fact “misused” when Ladlad was arrested on November 8, 2018 and illegal transactions ensued after his LBP ATM Visa Debit Card was taken from him:

“I knew of this immediately due to an LBP alert text on my cellphone suspending the card ’as preventive measure against unauthorized transaction/s.’ I promptly filed a complaint with the LBP and despite initial rejection, the stolen amount was restituted on February 5, 2020 through a full refund,” she revealed

Although the account was compromised and despite lawyers’ advice about asset freeze under the new Anti-Terrorism Act, she said Ladlad decided to keep his LBP accounts because “these were opened purposely to facilitate the payment of compensation to him as a victim of martial law and because, should anything happen to me, he would need to shoulder his medical needs and health care.”

Lim said she went to see Diokno at the BSP last May 31 but was denied entry due to COVID protocols.

“I hope Prof. Diokno will have the fairness of mind to heed my appeal as he belongs to the same generation that experienced the brutal repression of martial law and he can’t ignore the sacrifices recognized by the very law that created this indemnification fund,” Lim said.

“Vic is now 72, and he needs his compensation funds as his heath rapidly deteriorates under political imprisonment,” Lim stressed.

She said Ladlad was diagnosed last December 2020 with Asthma-Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Overlap Syndrome, which has a higher disease burden than either asthma or COPD alone, marked by frequent exacerbations and higher mortality rate.

This latest government action of freezing his legal compensation is a gross injustice that compounds the dark history of martial law and victimizes the victim anew with greater suffering. The lifting of the AMLC’s freeze order on his compensation accounts with the LBP will rectify this injustice and assure humanitarian support for his pressing medical needs,” Lim said.

Ladlad had repeatedly denied being a terrorist and said his imprisonment is “plain political persecution” based on “trumped-up charges” involving planted firearms.

Diokno has yet to respond to Lim’s appeal. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups urge SC to act on attacks against rights lawyers and clients

Human rights and civil society organizations petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to take urgent action against threats, red-tagging and killings of judges and lawyers as well as their clients.

In a letter to the SC Tuesday, May 18, Karapatan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advance of Government Employees said the attacks against court officers continue despite clear condemnation by the High Court last March 23.

Addressed to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, the petition said the “attacks against human rights lawyers violate the basic principle that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

The groups said that attacks against the lawyers and judges deprive them of effective access to legal services and adequate protection for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The letter reminded the Court that there have been 147 reported attacks against court officers in recent years.

Eighty-four or 57% of the victims are human rights lawyers affiliated with the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Public Interest Law Center, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and the Free Legal Assistance Group, the petition said.

In its March 23 statement, the SC acknowledged that members of the bar and the bench have been attacked and asked the lower court to submit reports on the matter.

The SC statement also came after NUPL member Angelo Karlo Guillen was stabbed with a screw driver on his lower left temple and back by two unidentified assailants in Iloilo City.

“The court condemns in the strongest sense every instance where a lawyer is threatened or killed, and where a judge is threatened and unfairly labeled. We do not and will not tolerate such acts that only perverse justice, defeat the rule of law, undermine the most basic of constitutional principles, and speculate on the worth of human lives,” the SC said.


‘State sponsored’

In their submission, the signatories also asked the Court look into the attacks suffered by the lawyers’ clients “and to understand the overarching government policies that cause them.”

The signatories asserted that the lawyers who represent activists, human rights defenders and ordinary people also become targets of the government’s counterinsurgency drive.

“An urgent and decisive action from the Supreme Court is a matter of life and death for activists and human rights defenders especially now when we are being increasingly targeted in the government’s counterinsurgency and counterterror campaign for our work and causes,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, one of the signatories, said.

“Despite the Supreme Court en banc’s much-needed statement two months ago, we are concerned that the attacks have only continued, if not worsened to even more alarming forms.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP: All 19 in ATC list ‘courageous, honorable revolutionaries’

The persons recently designated by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) as terrorists are either poor or have chosen to be poor because of their desire to serve the people, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said.

In a reaction to the ATC’s designation of 19 of its alleged top leaders as terrorists, the CPP said all those listed are honorable revolutionaries who have served the cause of the Filipino people for national and social liberation all their lives.

“Throughout the past decades, they have courageously stood side by side with the people and struggled against dictators and tyrants. They all have sacrificed personal ambition and selfish interests,” CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said in a statement Friday.

Valbuena said those named are now in their sixties and seventies and three of them are in jail even as they are well-known National Democratic Front of the Philippines Negotiating Panel (NDFP) consultants who attended peace negotiations with the Rodrigo Duterte government here and abroad.

The three are Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Adelberto Silva who have been separately arrested after Duterte cancelled formal peace negotiations and were uniformly charged with the non-bailable offense of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“Unlike Duterte, these revolutionaries have only the clothes on their back to count as their wealth. They do not accumulate money from the government nor fleece the people with taxes,” Valbuena said.

The CPP spokesperson added the 19 revolutionaries do not hide money in China or elsewhere and have repeatedly proven themselves to be true to the “people’s cause”.

Aside from Ladlad, Casambre and Silva, the ATC designated NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, New People’s Army (NPA) National Operations Command spokesperson Jorge Madlos, NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julietta de Lima, NDFP Negotiating Panel Member Benito Tiamzon and NDFP peace consultants Alan Jazmines, Wilma Tiamzon, Ma. Concepcion Araneta-Bocala, Tirso Alcantara, Pedro Codaste, and Loida Magpatoc as so-called terrorists under the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

The list also includes alleged CPP officials Abdias Gaudiana, Dionesio Micabato, Myrna Sularte, Tomas Dominado and Menandro Villanueva.

All 19, except for Sison and Araneta-Bocala, are from lower middle class or poor origins.

Sison was born of a landed and politically-influential family in Ilocos Sur while Araneta-Bocala was of the landlord class in Panay Island.

Both said they rid themselves of their respective families’ economic interests when they joined the revolutionary movement in their youth.

While the 19’s terrorist-designation needs a court order to become official, however, government agencies may freeze their bank accounts and other assets.

Appeal to BSP

Ladlad’s wife Fides Lim said her husband’s only bank account may be frozen by the ATC terrorist listing.

“Vic is a poor man. The only huge deposit or entire property under his name is the compensation he received from the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board in May 2018,” Lim said Friday, May 14.

Lim said Ladlad’s bank account with the government-controlled Land Bank includes the reparation for his sufferings as a political prisoner during martial law and for the disappearance of his first wife Leticia Pascual Ladlad in November 1975.

Ladlad wants to use his money for the treatment of his various illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well as food support in jail, replacement of his hearing aid reportedly stolen when he was arrested and to extend assistance to his mother who died last December while he was already in jail, Lim said.

Lim, also political detainee support group Kapatid spokesperson, revealed that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and its governor Benjamin Diokno may move to freeze Ladlad’s bank account.

“I came from the Land Bank this morning (Friday) and I know what you are up to as the designated chair of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in relation to implementing orders from the Anti-Terrorism Council regarding my husband,” Lim said.

“This is blood money. Don’t be complicit in the McCarthy witchhunting spree of the Anti-Terrorism Council. Only Vic has the right to his compensation claim,” she added.

Lim reminded Diokno that the arresting team pilfered his Land Bank ATM card and used it to steal money when Ladlad was arrested on November 8, 2018.

Lim said she filed a complaint with the Land Bank and it took over a year before she was able to recover what was stolen.

“I will safeguard every centavo of Vic’s deposit in the Land Bank. To BSP Gov. Benjamin Diokno: This is blood money. Don’t be complicit in the McCarthy witchhunting spree of the Anti-Terrorism Council. Only Vic has the right to his compensation claim,” Lim said.

‘Unconstitutional’

Ladlad protested his inclusion in the ATC terror list as a gross violation of his right to due process.

In a statement, Ladlad said he was never informed by the ATV that he has been charged as a “terrorist” and was never given the opportunity to refute the charge.

“I firmly state that I am not a terrorist. It is the Anti-Terrorism Act in its too vague definition of terrorism and its expansive list of “acts of terrorism” that enabled the authorities to easily brand my political

Baylosis for his part said he vehemently decry and object to the ATC resolution designating alleged CPP Central Committee members as so-called terrorists.

“In my case, the latest ATC order disregards an earlier preceding Manila RTC (Regional Trial Court) decision in the third quarter of 2018 that I was not one of the ‘terrorists’ named in the first GRP proscription suit against the CPP-NPA,” Baylosis said.

Baylosis added that he was also freed from detention in early 2019 based on two Quezon City RTCs final ruling on “false, fabricated non-bailable” charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosive.

Casambre’s family said his inclusion in the list is a desperate move by the government and itself “terroristic” attack.

“Rey Casambre is a teacher and scientist, not a criminal. He is a peace activist, not a terrorist,” his family said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mga grupo nagtipon sa harap ng Korte Suprema bago ang ikalawang oral argument ng Anti-Terror Law

Nagtipon ang mga human rights advocate mula sa iba’t ibang grupo sa harapan ng Korte Suprema bago ang ikalawang oral argument ng Anti-Terror Law, Pebrero 9, 2021.

Kanilang inihayag ang pagtutol sa naturang batas at suporta mga abogadong humarap sa oral arguments ngayong hapon laban sa anila ay delikadong batas.

Protesta inilunsad sa pagsisimula ng oral arguments kontra terror law

Nagsama-sama ang iba’t-ibang grupo na tutol sa RA 11479 o ang Anti-Terrorism Act sa Padre Faura sa Maynila ilang oras bago simulan ang oral arguments nito sa Korte Suprema, Pebrero 2.

Kaugnay ito sa 37 petisyon kontra sa nasabing batas na ayon sa mga aktibista ang pinakamaraming petisyon sa kasaysaysan ng mga batas sa Pilipinas.

Mariin nilang tinututulan ang terror law at sinabi na malaking banta ito sa pagpapahayag ng mamamayan laluna sa paglaban ngayon sa tiraniya.

KODAO ASKS: Ano ang iyong pagtingin sa Anti-Terror Law?

Sinalubong ng nagkakaisang mamamayan ang ika-5 State of the Nation Address o SONA ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte sa pamamagitan ng isang protestang may temang “SONAgkaisa.” Ginanap ito noong Lunes, Hulyo 27, sa kahabaan ng University Avenue sa UP Diliman, Quezon City. Dinaluhan ito ng 8,000 katao mula sa iba’t ibang sektor at mga progresibong grupo.

Bitbit ng mga sektor ang kani-kanilang mga panawagan at hinaing sa apat na taon na panunungkulan ng pangulo. Pinakatampok sa mga ito ang panawagang ibasura ang kontrobersyal na Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 o Anti-Terrorism Law.

Hiningan ng Kodao Productions ang ilan sa mga dumalo ng kanilang pagtingin hinggil sa pagkakapasa ng nasabing batas. (Bidyo nina Jo Maline Mamangun, Jola Mamangun, Joseph Cuevas, at Arrem Alcaraz)

Petisyon kontra-Terror Law inihain ng mga mamamahayag at artista

Inihain ang ika-13 petisyon kontra sa kontrobersyal na Anti-Terrorism Law kaninang umaga, Hulyo 23 sa Korte Suprema. Pinangunahan ito ng National Union of Journalists of the Philippines at Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

Hinihiling nila na ideklarang labag sa batas ang Anti-Terror Law dahil sa mga probisyon nito na napakalawak na depinisyon patungkol sa terorismo. Gayundin magiging sandata din ito para sikilin ang sinumang nais magpahayag ng pagtutol lalo na sa gobyerno. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Neri Colmenares on Anti-Terror Law and Street Protests

Opposition and resistance have overwhelmed the Philippine political landscape amidst the Covid19 pandemic, when the ‘anti-terror bill’ became a law. Now, the broad people’s resistance has become a test if the regime can continue to intimidate the people with the law and the virus.

In the end, the anti-terror law and the tyrannical regime that gave birth to it will be quashed by the protest movement of the streets where significant victories have been achieved in the past.

IBON opens to gov’t inspection days before anti-terrorism law effectivity

With the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) soon coming into effect, research group IBON opened their office for inspection by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Bgy. Sacred Heart officials last Wednesday, July 15.

The group said they requested the ocular inspection to show their transparency and prove the absence of illegal materials and equipment on the premises.

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“This is an important contribution to IBON asserting its character as a legitimate organization that does not, never has, and never will have the guns, explosives, and other illegal items that are wont to be planted to justify spurious search warrants and bogus charges against activists and human rights defenders,” the group’s executive director Sonny Africa said.

The group said that it also wants to protect the rights and ensure the safety of IBON staff and tenants.

IBON Foundation said the inspection is in anticipation of the ATL which is presumed to become effective on July 18.

The group recalled the Duterte administration’s continued disinformation drive about IBON which appears to be laying the groundwork for using the ATL against it.

Africa expressed concern that the draconian and oppressive law will be used to try and hinder IBON’s research, education and advocacy work.

The CHR first inspected IBON premises in November 2019 after a reported imminent police operation on its building.

It confirmed the absence of anything illegal, irregular, or prohibited on the premises.

IBON is among many non-government organizations actively red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communism and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) since late 2018. 

The group has repeatedly refuted allegations by the government task force that it supports terrorism.

The IBON building also houses AlterMidya and IBON International who are also targets of government harassment and red-tagging.

Last February, IBON lodged a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman against NTF-ELCAC officials: National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon; Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Operations Brigadier General Antonio Parlade; and Presidential Communications and Operations Office secretary Lorraine Badoy. This was for their malicious and baseless red-tagging of IBON since 2018.

IBON said that it supports petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Law filed at the Supreme Court.

The law must be declared unconstitutional for being overly vague in its definition of terrorism. It gives room to target economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights defenders and in doing so undermines prospects for economic democracy, human rights and social justice. These are if anything more crucial than ever at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the group. #