Freezing an HR abuse victim’s accounts

I would not be surprised if aging and ailing human rights abuse victims of the Marcos dictatorship who had received compensation under Republic Act No. 10368 would worry about their Land Bank and other bank accounts and so might withdraw their deposits. Why? Because they fear that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) would freeze their deposits without due process because their names landed in the government’s “terrorists” list without their knowing it or for reasons that escape them. Because the government presumes that their deposits would be used for terrorist activities. Because…

Vicente Ladlad, 72, is among the 19 persons recently declared “terrorists” by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC). And so a freeze order was made on his bank accounts. Ladlad is among the more than 11,000 human rights abuse victims who had received monetary compensation in 2017 (coursed through Land Bank) for their sufferings (torture, detention, disappearance, and death of kin, etc.) during the Marcos dictatorship. The money came from the Marcos accounts that the Swiss government returned on condition that these would be used to indemnify victims.

Ladlad is also among the close to 10,000 claimants who had won a class suit in Hawaii against the Marcoses in 1994. He had opened bank accounts for the funds he had received.

Ladlad was arrested in 2018 and is facing charges in a Manila Regional Trial Court for illegal possession of firearms and explosives and is detained in the Philippine National Police Detention Center in Bicutan. But that is another story. (Oh, in fairness to Land Bank, it refunded the amount stolen from Ladlad’s ATM account after his belongings were seized when he was arrested.)

During the martial law years in the 1980s Ladlad was detained and tortured, the reason he claimed compensation, and also because of the disappearance of his first wife, activist Leticia Pascual, who is presumed to have been summarily killed.

Ladlad’s wife Fides Lim wrote a letter dated May 31 to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno asking for the unfreezing of her husband’s accounts. She called the freezing “immoral and reprehensible” and that the freeze order “would only perpetuate the injustice and tragedy that those accounts seek to atone for and indemnify.” The bank funds were for her husband’s medical treatment for asthma and other ailments, she added.

It is easy to trace the funds’ provenance, Fides argued. They did not come from suspicious sources abroad. This brings to mind the freezing in 2019 of the bank account of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) composed of members of different religious congregations who work among the marginalized. Their funds come mainly from the European Union, but the RMP was suspected of aiding terrorism. Nuns aiding terrorists?

Diokno chairs the AMLC. The freezing by the AMLC is an offshoot of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 whose constitutionality is now being challenged before the Supreme Court by more than 30 groups of petitioners. Will Diokno deign to listen?

I sought out some members of the defunct Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) that processed the victims’ claims, Ladlad’s among them. How is it that one of the claimants’ compensation is now being seen by the government as aiding terrorism?

Board member and lawyer Glenda Litong said: “Under RA 10168 (Anti-Terrorism Financing Law) AMLC can issue a freeze order, valid for 20 days, unless extended by the Court of Appeals.” But she added that for humanitarian reasons, this can be cited: “Sec. 13. Humanitarian ExemptionsʍThe person whose property or funds have been frozen under the third paragraph of Section 11 may withdraw such sums as AMLC determines to be reasonably needed for monthly family needs including the services of counsel…”

HRVCB board member Byron Bocar said: “The freeze order goes against the spirit of RA 10368 on reparations and the principles of transitional justice and human rights.” Board members Litong, Atty. Jacqueline Mejia, Drs. Aurora Parong and Linda Senturias agreed.

RA 10368 is “An act providing for reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime, documentation of said violations, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes.”

Do the ATC members really believe that the ailing Ladlad’s compensation funds are for terrorism? Or are they sadists?

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