“To indict the 16 individuals merely on the basis of unvetted or still to be clarified statements, without strong documentary or object proof, is to act on rumors. No less than the Department of Justice is expected to heed the principles of justice, truth and fairness in the conduct of its duty to the public which it has sworn to serve.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – “Serving the indigenous peoples is not a crime.”
This is the statement of Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) after the Department of Justice (DOJ) charged 16 individuals, including its secretary general Czarina Musni, of terrorism financing.
News reports said that the DOJ have filed 55 counts of violation of Section 8 (ii) of RA 10168 or The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 before the regional trial court of Iligan City on Monday, Aug. 15.
The DOJ alleged that the said individuals are providing funds to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
In its statement, the UPLM denounced what they described as dangerous accusations against the 16 individuals. They asserted that the accusations are baseless and are merely based on unvetted testimonies aimed at suppressing and harassing human rights defenders.
They added that to indict the 16 individuals “merely on the basis of unvetted or still to be clarified statements, without strong documentary or object proof, is to act on rumors.”
“No less than the Department of Justice is expected to heed the principles of justice, truth and fairness in the conduct of its duty to the public which it has sworn to serve,” the UPLM said in a statement.
The group said the UPLM and its Cagayan De Oro chapter have been a staunch ally of the RMP and its Northern Mindanao Region chapter in the defense and assertion of the rights of rural poor communities in the face of development aggression, climate change, and sectoral discrimination.
“The projects of the RMP-NMR went through the rigorous processes of selection, monitoring and auditing by its respective donors, such as the European Union, the United Nations, and many others,” the group said.
Musni has also been a member of the UPLM-CDO since she was in law school.
Read via our mirror site: Amid threats to life, lawyers continue to fight for justice
“As an officer of the UPLM, she has figured prominently in various projects in partnership with RMP-NMR Chapter in providing legal assistance to the Lumad communities,” the UPLM said.
The UPLM said that working with the RMP has strengthened the indigenous peoples’ movement in the assertion of their rights as a people.
“Ironically, these developments triggered the government and earned its ire. Any one who dares to run counter to the policies of this government faces the wrath of red-tagging, and worse, the marking as a terrorist and an enemy of the state,” the group said in a statement.
Musni was repeatedly red-tagged in Mindanao. In 2019, the military included her family and other individuals in what they call as a “military hit list.”
Read via our mirror site: Group decries spread of red-tagging lists, flyers in CDO
As lawyer from the UPLM, Musni has also worked for the dismissal of cases against the 17 human rights workers and activists in Agusan Del Sur.
Read via our mirror site: Why the junking of charges against 17 Mindanao activists is a ‘slap in the face of red-taggers’
Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, meanwhile, denounced the charges against the 16 individuals. They said the charges are “clearly unfounded, politically-motivated, and trumped-up.”
“We denounce this attack against this group of progressive rural missionaries which we have known for years as servants of the poor and most vulnerable sectors,” PAMALAKAYA said in a statement.
The group attests that RMP’s missionary work involves “providing moral and spiritual guidance to the restless; to the farmers and fishers who have been continuously deprived of their right to land and fishing waters, and to workers who suffer unjust treatment at their workplaces.”
“They never deserve political persecution from the state that has failed and neglected to do such noble service to the poor,” Ronnel Arambulo, PAMALAKAYA National Spokesperson said in a statement. (RTS, RVO)