BRUSSELS, Belgium -- As the government takes its war against local communist armed conflict a step further, the National Task Force got the assurance of European officials who vowed to look into the information presented by the Philippine government on the reported funding of Belgium and other EU-member countries for CPP activities.

Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter Terrorism coordinator

In a series of recent engagements with officials of the European Union (EU), European Parliament, and European Commission (EC), the Philippine delegation requested to “stop the flow of funds to identified communist terrorist front organizations.”

Alarming information

Data presented by the Philippine delegation showed that communist front organizations receive funds from the Belgian government and some European countries in the guise of marginalized and pro-poor programs.

Documents obtained by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also reveal that EU has reportedly released its first tranche of more than 621,000 Euros (PHP36,663,840) to the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and is expected to release 1.3 million Euros (PHP76,752,000) this year until the Philippine government flagged them. The Belgian government, on the other hand, has allocated a 15-million Euro (PHP885,600,000) grant or 3 million Euros per year to some Belgian NGOs for the 2017-2021 program.

According to Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, the communist terrorist groups hide behind legitimate organizations.

The military has identified seven recipient organizations based on documents from the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not to mention those from other European countries.

“We bring this to the EU as one of our major concerns and we seek your cooperation for the sake of our people by helping us stop the flow of funds,” said Alex Paul Monteagudo, Director General of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Parlade said the information about the EU and Belgian government unwittingly funding organizations affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA), came from EU and the Belgian government themselves.

“Many of this money was channeled by these NGOs to other organizations whose only objective is to portray President (Rodrigo) Duterte as a tyrant and his administration as oppressive,” he added.

He said, “What we wanted the EU and UN (United Nations) to also know is that the CPP and its front organizations, like Karapatan, are consistent and persistent in providing UN and European governments with all these false data.”

Multi-funding scheme

Monteagudo said what is even more appalling is that funding countries are not aware of the multiple funding scheme that communist terrorist front organizations employ.

Multiple funding, he added, refers to a project wherein communist front organizations would solicit simultaneously for funds from three or four different agencies or countries. It would be a fortune if these funding agencies approve their requests because it would allow them to undertake the legitimate programs and still have extra money to spend for anti-government activities.

“This is the revelation of surrendered communists who said that on the average, they are able to divert 60 percent of funds to the communist party, which used the money to support their activities, such as rallies, armed activities, purchase of weapons and ammunition, and terrorizing and killing of Filipinos,” he said.

These front organizations, Monteagudo said, have mastered the art of sourcing and diverting funds to buy weapons and train children to become warriors in their alleged schools.

“They focus on the indigenous people because they are vulnerable and entrust their children to these schools,” he added.

Serious scrutiny

Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter Terrorism coordinator, promised to look into the information very seriously and develop a more intense cooperation.

He said he will talk with his colleagues in the European Commission and have an independent financial audit.

“You can be assured that we will monitor the country’s expenditures and donors who may have given to the organizations for the same activity,” de Kerchove added. “We will share with you the outcome of (the) external audit."

De Kerchove expressed concern about terrorist financing and that the level of threat remains serious, saying it can happen anytime, like what happened in the Jolo church bombing.

“Some terror groups are re-emerging like al-Qaeda, persisting propaganda that can easily seduce (the) young. There is no reason to be complacent,” he said.

Peter Kouroumbashev of the European Parliament

He added that the EU has posted counter terror experts to its Jakarta delegation to enhance security in ASEAN and other states.

“We hope to send our colleague to the Philippines who will reach out to you soon. We are eager to explore with the Philippines to maximize efforts,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gunnar Weigand, Managing Director of European External Action Service and European Commission South East Division of Development and Cooperation (DEVCO), promised to conduct an independent financial audit this month.

“It is important that the taxpayers’ money is well spent. We take concerns seriously,” Weigand said.

He requested the Philippine delegation to provide any information at the soonest possible time so that they can inform auditors of what to look into.

“We share the same challenges. We have done it in the last two years and we will do more,” he added.

Aside from climate change, Weigand said security is high and complex in Europe, especially after the 2001 New York 9-11 and 2004 Madrid terror attacks.

Europe, he said, like the Philippines is also confronted with terrorism challenges and they are prepared to face the threats.

He admitted that quite a challenging job is information sharing among agencies on terror financing and trafficking of arms.

As EU tries to engage countries faced with terrorism, mainly in Asia, Weigand promised to channel to their different networks the information presented by the Philippine delegation.

“They (communist front organizations) should not be able to collect money in anyway. We will talk to the people in charge,” he said.

Weigand also echoed de Kerchove’s promise to task the security attache in Indonesia to look into the communist funding information.

European Parliament member Peter Kouroumbashev also vowed to make an alarm of the information and conduct an investigation of the funds.

The Philippine delegation expressed optimism for a productive European engagement, saying that so long as the funding continues to pour in to these front organizations, the CPP-NPA will have the capability to sustain their terror activities.

“Fifty years is long enough. President Rodrigo Duterte issued EO (Executive Order) 70 to mobilize the whole of government to address the root cause of insurgency,” Monteagudo said.

“We look at communist terrorists in the same manner as other terror groups. If we have to win the war against terrorism, we have to share information,” he added. (PNA)