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EU to probe if funds used by Reds

/ 07:16 AM March 31, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The European Union (EU) on Saturday said it would investigate allegations that its assistance funds were being funneled to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

The Philippine government demanded the probe, alleging that aid supplied to a local nonprofit group by the European Union was being diverted to the rebels, who are waging a decades-old insurgency that has killed thousands, the bloc’s office in Manila said.

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“Should the allegations be established, the EU immediately would take full legal action,” the EU Delegation to the Philippines said in a statement, adding that a financial audit by an external company would be conducted next month.

External audit

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“The EU now will verify and evaluate these documents. A financial audit by an external company is due to be conducted in April,” it said.

The statement said Manila had raised the claims with the European Union in January, but that an initial audit “has so far not been able to verify the allegations.”

Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said on Saturday the military had supplied the European Union with “voluminous documents” in support of the allegation.

The European Union issued the statement as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday said the Philippines had cosponsored a UN Security Council resolution on efforts combating the financing of terrorism.

Terrorist financing

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. spoke to the Security Council at the UN headquarters in New York in support of Resolution 2462, which, among other matters, calls for the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism to play a leading role in formulating ways to suppress terrorist financing.

The resolution was adopted by the council on Thursday (Friday in Manila).

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The DFA quoted Locsin as saying that “money is the lifeblood of terrorism” in his speech that also highlighted the country’s initiatives to combat the illicit fund transfers to terrorists groups.

Locsin said the Philippines defined “terrorist financing as a separate crime,” adding that the country was working on amending the Human Security Act to address “the exploitation of cyberspace for terrorism.”

Arevalo said “millions of pesos” in foreign aid had been funneled to the NPA for many years using its “front organizations.”

“We are confident that we will succeed in proving our case,” he added.

The European Union’s Manila office said the bloc’s officials spoke with representatives from the Philippine government in Brussels, Belgium, in February “to better understand the precise content of the allegations.”

“During the meeting the EU declared that it stands ready to receive precise information that would enable it to further evaluate and verify the allegations,” it said.

The European Union considers the CPP and NPA terrorist groups.

“[This] means [among other things] that no assets can be held in EU by these organizations,” the European Union said.

The economic bloc said that in responding to the Philippine government’s allegations in January against a specific Philippine nongovernmental organization (NGO), “the EU conducted an audit of the funds from the EU that allegedly were funneled from that NGO to the NPA or the CPP, but has so far not been able to verify the allegations.”

“It should be noted that so far the NGO is fully registered and continues to operate legally in the Philippines,” the European Union said.

President Duterte canceled peace talks with the rebels in 2017 after they refused to agree to a ceasefire and stop imposing “revolutionary taxes” on businesses in areas where the NPA operates. —Reports from AFP and Jerome Aning

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