Esperon says Belgian gov't 'unwittingly' funding CPP-NPA
MANILA (2nd UPDATE) – The European Union said Saturday it would investigate the supposed diversion of its aid to the communist movement through non-government organizations (NGOs), as the Philippine government alleged.
In a statement, the EU Delegation in Manila said it has set an audit this April of EU grants to certain Philippine organizations allegedly being funneled to communist rebels.
The European bloc said it already received documents that serve as evidence on the Philippine government's allegations that a certain group was acting as legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
The EU took action in response to a new Philippine report that elaborated on the allegation the latter first made in January, which the bloc "has so far not been able to verify."
With the submission of evidence, the EU said it would conduct a fresh audit.
“On 28 March, the EU received a set of documents concerning the more specific allegations by the Government. The EU now will verify and evaluate these documents. A financial audit by an external company is due to be conducted in April,” the EU statement read.
The EU noted that it would not allow these “terrorist groups” to hold the assets of the 28-country union. It has considered the CPP and the NPA as terrorist groups since 2005, "which means inter alia that no assets can be held in EU by these organizations."
It did not identify the NGO, but noted that it is “fully registered and continues to operate legally in the Philippines.”
In a letter dated March 26 to Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. alleged that "EU funds are used to sustain terrorist activities of the longest existing communist-terrorist organization in the world, the CPP-NPA."
He added that EU funds were being "used to finance terrorist front organizations to recruit, traffic and exploit children to become child warriors."
Esperon cited information disclosed by the Belgian foreign ministry that supposedly showed that "several CPP-NPA-linked alternative schools and NGOs are funded by the Belgian government through its NGOs."
"The Belgian government, through different NGOs based in Belgium, has indirectly and unwittingly partnered with various NGOs in the Philippines that act as legal fronts of the CPP-NPA," said Esperon's letter, a copy of which was obtained by ABS-CBN News.
Esperon identified the Belgian organizations as SOLIDAGRO, Viva Salud and KIYO.
He said SOLIDAGRO is linked with the following communist-tagged organizations:
1. Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV)
2. IBON Foundation (IBON)
4. Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI)
5. Salugpungan Ta'tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (Salungpungan/STTICLCI)
6. Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP)
His letter, meanwhile, said Belgian group Viva Salud are partners with the following:
1. Alliance of Health Workers (AHW)
2. Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)
5. Ibon Foundation
The KIYO, meanwhile, "has a direct link" to the following militant organizations:
2. Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)
The EU said it met with a Philippine delegation in Brussels in February "to better understand the precise content on the allegations" first made in January and assured that "should allegations be established, the EU would immediately take full legal action."
The EU probe comes on the heels of the Philippine government's permanent termination of peace negotiations with the communist movement. It had failed over continued rebel attacks on state forces.
In a text message, Renato Reyes, secretary general of leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), brushed off the government's allegation, saying that the continued red-tagging and supposed vilification of progressive groups is a "desperate attempt to discredit their human rights work and suppress freedom of expression and the right to organize."
"They fail to provide a shred of evidence about the alleged diversion of funds. The issues go beyond 'funding.' The more fundamental issue is how government views legitimate groups doing human rights work in the Philippines," he added.
Reyes said he was speaking in "general terms," not on behalf of the groups named in Esperon's report.
Among the organizations tagged, ACT, Gabriela, Karapatan, and KMU are under the Bayan umbrella.
Karapatan said it is confident that the allegation will be disproved and instead urged EU to review its financial assistance to the Philippine government.
“We reiterate that the human rights violations we have raised are based on actual reports from communities, leaders, sectors, and human rights workers on the ground," Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
"We likewise call on the EU and other governments to also review the funding that they give to the PH government and its arms deals with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, as these may be used to fund State terrorism and kill more Filipinos in line with Duterte’s war on drugs and counter-insurgency program."
Gabriela, meanwhile, called the accusation "fake news" as it urged foreign governments and the public to be "more critical."
- with a report from Michael Joe Delizo, ABS-CBN News