Prosecutors of the Marcos II government announced on 15 August the filing of criminal charges against 16 individuals for allegedly conspiring to divert money from foreign sources to fund the New People’s Army. The 16 individuals, including five Roman Catholic nuns and a lawyer, are part of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, a 53-year-old voluntary association of priests, nuns and lay missionaries that provide support for rural communities of peasants, agricultural workers fisherfolk and indigenous peoples.
In their announcement, Department of Justice prosecutors “found probable cause” to indict Sr. Emma Teresita Cupin, Sr. Susan Dejolde, Sr. Ma. Fatima Napoles Somogod, Sr. Augustina Juntilla, Sr. Maryjane Caspillo, Atty. Czarina Golda Selim Musni, Melissa Comiso, Maridel Solomon Fano, Jhona Ignilan Stokes, Hanelyn Caibigan Cespedes, Angelie Magdua, Emilio Gabales, Mary Louise Dumas, Aileen Villarosa, Evelyn Naguio and Aldeem Yañez for “making available funds to the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA.”
The DOJ prosecutors, however, did not confirm whether the accused received subpoenas or were allowed to participate in the DOJ preliminary investigation.
RMP Spokesperson Sr. Rebecca D. Pacete, MMS, denied the allegations, declaring that all their projects are reported and accounted for. The RMP, she said, “complied with requirements in securing funds for projects, including audits.”
Sr. Pacete also decried the demonization of their work which, she said, “has negatively affected various ministries in sustainable agriculture, rural schools, disaster risk reduction, climate change mitigation, health services, defense of human rights and organic farming.”
She likewise expressed concern for the safety of the accused, two among whom are already in prison on trumped-up charges. “Rabid and lethal red-tagging, weaponization of the law and impunity for human rights violations continue to be state policies that must be vigorously opposed,” she said.
The case stems from complaints filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council, based on testimonies of two alleged witnesses claiming to be former members of the NPA. The AMLC had earlier ordered the Bank of the Philippine Islands to freeze three RMP bank accounts for 20 days in December 2019. The freeze order was extended to six months in February 2020 by the Court of Appeals.
DOJ prosecutors “recommended no bail for the accused.” If convicted, the accused face the maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than PhP500,000 (US$9,000).