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‘Terror-freezing’ of assets

A terrorist in every nook and cranny. That seems to be the raison d’etre of House Bill No. 6875 or the anti-terrorism bill that has human rights activists raising a howl and even taking to the streets during the imposed quarantine in this pandemic season. “Terror bill” is how those opposed to it, media practitioners among them, deridingly call it.

In February, the Senate approved the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which seeks to repeal the Human Security Act of 2007 and has deadlier teeth allowing the government to curtail supposed acts of terror. Early this month, President Duterte certified as urgent the anti-terrorism bill “to address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism” and “effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts.” The House approved its counterpart bill. HB 6875 is now with the President for signing.

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HB 6875 is an act “defining, preventing, and penalizing terrorist acts, repealing for the purpose Republic Act No. 9372 otherwise known as the ‘Human Security Act of 2007’ and appropriating funds therefor.”

While many consider warrantless arrests as gravely worrisome, the bill has provisions that are also eyebrow-raising, among them, Sections 35 and 36. Why, even before these had been put into writing, these had already been enforced against the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), one of the task forces of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines. But I am getting ahead of the story.

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“Sec. 35. Anti-Money Laundering Council Authority (AMLC) to investigate, inquire into and examine bank deposits—Upon the issuance by the court of a preliminary order of proscription or in case of designation under Section 25 of this Act, the AMLC, either upon its own initiative or at the request of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), is hereby authorized to investigate: (a) any property or funds that are in any way related to the financing of terrorism as defined and penalized under Republic Act No. 10168, or violation of Sections 4, 6, 7, 10, 11 or 12 of this Act; and (b) property or funds of any person or persons in relation to whom there is probable cause to believe that such person or person are committing or attempting or conspiring to commit, or participating in or facilitating the financing of the aforementioned sections of this Act….

“Sec. 36. Authority to Freeze—Upon the issuance by the court of a preliminary order of proscription or in case of designation under Section 25 of this Act, the AMLC, either upon its own initiative or request of the ATC, is hereby authorized to issue an ex parte order to freeze without delay: (a) any property or funds that are in any way related to financing of terrorism as defined and penalized under Republic Act No. 10168 or any violation of Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 11 or 12 of this Act; and (b) property or funds of any person or persons in relation to whom there is probable cause to believe that such person or persons are committing or attempting or conspiring to commit, or participating in or facilitating the financing of the aforementioned sections of this Act.

“The freeze order shall be effective for a period not exceeding twenty (20) days. Upon a petition filed by the AMLC before the expiration of the period, the effectivity of the freeze order may be extended up to a period not exceeding six (6) months upon the order of the Court of Appeals.”

I did write about the RMP case last February. Unknown to RMP, on Dec. 26, 2019, the AMLC issued Resolution TF-18 which ordered a 20-day freeze for three RMP accounts with the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI). It ordered the bank to submit details of RMP-related bank accounts. The AMLC could file, through the Office of the Solicitor General, a petition to extend the freeze order to six months with the Court of Appeals.

RMP had told me that the freezing was based on AMLC’s vague reasoning that there was “probable cause that the BPI accounts of RMP are related to terrorism financing.”

Two days ago, I sent a message to RMP head Sister Elsa Compuesto to inquire about the RMP case. Her reply: The bank accounts are still frozen.

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TAGS: AMLC, anti-terrorism bill, Human Face. Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, RMP, Rodrigo Duterte, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines
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