“It is terrifying to see so much state power wielded with impunity against the powerless, defenseless and innocent. Yet it is also tragicomic that the high and mighty would plunge into such a squalid abyss for such puny gains, and ultimately counterproductive outcomes.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Elderly peace consultants are unjustly being deprived by the government of their ability to take care of their needs.
Xandra Bisenio, daughter of detained peace consultant Rey Casambre revealed that the Anti-Money Laundering Council has frozen the bank accounts of her father, depriving them access to funds that they use for the essential needs of their father, especially during the pandemic.
This has brought anxiety to the family and friends of the peace worker.
The decision of the AMLC came after the Anti-Terror Council (ATC) designated Casambre and other peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as terrorists, per the contested Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
“It is terrifying to see so much state power wielded with impunity against the powerless, defenseless and innocent. Yet it is also tragicomic that the high and mighty would plunge into such a squalid abyss for such puny gains, and ultimately counterproductive outcomes,” Bisenio said.
Bisenio said they confirmed that his father’s banks accounts were frozen on June 16 when they were able to get copies of his official bank documents. They also attempted to withdraw from Casambre’s ATM account to pay for some groceries but got a message that read: “The account does not exist.”
“It is doubtful they had as much as lifted a finger to determine whether such ‘assets’ were actually being used to finance or support terrorism, as they allege publicly while disclosing neither supposed evidence nor proof,” Bisenio lamented.
Casambre and his wife Cora were arrested just days after Executive Order No. 70 was signed. E.O. 70 created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. Cora was later released.
Bisenio said that any bank teller would wonder why her father’s “modest accounts would merit even a microsecond of scrutiny, not to mention suspicion.”
She said that the contents of Casambre’s accounts were accumulated savings from his father’s living allowance from the Philippine Peace Center, a non-government organization where he serves as executive director, as well as from her mother Cora’s savings from her work as a researcher-translator for the past three decades.
It also included various honoraria from their occasional writing contracts and speaking engagements, and accumulated cash gifts from relatives for Christmas, birthdays, and similar occasions.
“To be sure ATC Resolution 17 and the consequent AMLC Resolution TF 40 series 2021 freezing Mr. Casambre’s bank accounts were clothed with legalese, in a thinly veiled effort to conceal its glaring legal infirmities,” Bisenio said.
She said that her parents, who were also arrested and detained during the martial rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, are familiar with universal legal standards where one cannot be legally penalized for an alleged crime without due process, which includes being confronted with evidence used in the charges against them.
Bisenio said that the terrorist designation and the consequent freezing of assets are just tips “of the proverbial iceberg of tyranny and injustice wrought on our people for the past five years, paling in comparison, significance and horror to the EJKs [extrajudicial killings], disappearances and other grave human rights violations by state forces.”
She called the freezing of accounts of Casambre and others – to purportedly cripple the communist movement – as pathetic.
“Despite all these, we want the ATC to know that in our family’s case, our real assets, our most valued possessions, the source of our joy, security and peace of mind cannot be found in any bank or monetary institution,” Bisenio said.
“They lie in our lifetime commitment to serving 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 added.
Casambre is the second peace consultant who reported that their bank accounts were frozen as a result of the terror listing. (Read: AMLC freezes peace consultant’s compensation as martial law victim)
There are also institutions whose bank accounts and assets were frozen by the AMLC such as the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Haran and recently the women’s peasants group Amihan. (JJE, RTS, RVO)