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Lawyers group slams conviction of cashier over terror financing sans trial

The Department of Justice (DOJ) secured the conviction of a cashier of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in the Northern Mindanao region over terrorist financing through a plea bargain and without trial, lawyers of the group said on Friday.

"On March 16, 2023, the Public Attorney’s Office presented Angelie Z. Magdua to the Regional Trial Court Branch 1 in Iligan City for arraignment and proposed a plea bargain of the charges against her from violation of Section 8 to violation of Section 7 of Republic Act (RA) 10168," the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) said in a statement.

RA 10168 pertains to the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

Section 7 defines an accessory to the crime of Financing Terrorism and imposes a penalty that is two degrees lower than that which is imposable on a principal offender.

Magdua, one of the cashiers of the RMP, was convicted for being an accessory to the crime of terrorist financing.

The DOJ said the organization obtained donations to finance the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army.

UPLM said that on March 16, the court also agreed on the plea bargain agreement which downgraded Magdua's offense to violation of Section 7 of the same law and held her guilty of 55 counts of violation of the said section.

“Interestingly, the State through the DOJ, issued no grand announcement of Magdua’s alleged surrender on December 4, 2022 as it usually does when a so-called 'terrorist' returns to the fold of the law," the lawyers said.

"Instead, the DOJ claimed victory over her March 16 'conviction' but was eerily silent over the fact that it was on a plea bargain that, in effect, conveniently bypassed trial of these cases where the testimony of Magdua and the state’s other witnesses would have been subject to judicial scrutiny of the Court,” they added.

Despite the conviction, UPLM maintained that such charges against Magdua and other RMP members are bogus.

“The fallacious statement of the DOJ about the conviction of Angeline Z. Magdua will not in any way weaken the resolve of the RMP and its 16 workers, all unjustly charged with trumped-up cases of financing terrorism. Instead of addressing the root causes of the country’s still ongoing armed conflict, the State resorted to this despicable measure only to silence dissent and criticisms over its failures,” it said.

UPLM said that unfounded charges against RMP members have "deprived" lumad and peasant communities of a devoted ally in their resistance against intrusions of extractive mining operations and large-scale agricultural enterprises in the region, as well as partners in defending themselves.

GMA News Online has reached out to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla for his comment and will publish it as soon at it becomes available.—With Richa Noriega/LDF, GMA Integrated News