Leyte development organization challenges "freeze order" in court

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The Leyte Center for Development Enterprise (LCDE), Inc. filed a petition in the Court of Appeals in Cebu City on May 17 to question the imposition of a “freeze order” by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) on their bank accounts. They demand determining the alleged reasons of the AMLC and Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) for the arbitrary “freeze order” and have it lifted. The petition was filed with the help of lawyers from the National Union of People’ Lawyers (NUPL)-Eastern Visayas.

The AMLC issued a resolution against LCDE in April implicating the institution in “terrorism financing,” which was later used as a basis to freeze the group’s bank accounts. It also froze the accounts of its leader Jazmin Jerusalem, as well as at least four other volunteers. The decree also implicated even businesses LCDE had transactions with for its charitable operations. The banks officially froze the accounts on May 2.

“This case demonstrates that our fears are well founded… that anyone maliciously linked to the communist movement and or to any person it brands to be a terrorist stands to have their civil liberties curtailed,” NUPL-Eastern Visayas president Atty. Alberto Hidalgo said.

The lawyer said the AMLC seems to be the “judge, jury, and executioner” in issuing financial sanctions. “How can the principle of effective judicial protection be observed when vast powers are concentrated in one executive body or two and we have no idea what happens behind their closed doors?” Hidalgo added.

In addition to questioning the imposed “freeze order,” the LCDE also challenged in court the constitutionality of the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012, which was used against it. This law allows the AMLC to investigate banks, impose freezes, and others, without any hearing or notice, or due process of law.

LCDE said the damage resulting from the freezing of their bank account is catastrophic and is almost equivalent to the suspension of services provided by the institution to more than one million poor families in Eastern Visayas who do not receive services from the government.

Freezing accounts has become a widespread military tactic in recent years to paralyze the services of development institutions, progressive and activist groups. “Terrorism financing” is usually associated with the prosecution of “terrorism” under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

AB: Leyte development organization challenges "freeze order" in court