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Human Face

‘Terrorism financing’?

/ 05:05 AM February 13, 2020

So like an intractable virus.

With the Duterte administration’s unrelenting crackdown on its perceived enemies, it is no surprise for members of its officialdom to hit at even those who are harmless, powerless, and clueless vis-à-vis their vicious intents.

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The latest in the crosshairs is again the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), whose Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) accounts were frozen by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). RMP is one of the task forces of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines.

Unknown to RMP, on Dec. 26, 2019, the AMLC issued Resolution TF-18 which ordered a 20-day freeze for three RMP accounts with the BPI. It ordered the bank to submit details of RMP-related bank accounts. The AMLC could file, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), a petition to extend the freeze order to six months with the Court of Appeals.RMP said this latest crackdown was based on the AMLC’s very vague reasoning that there is “probable cause that the BPI accounts of RMP are related to terrorism financing.”

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RMP national coordinator Sister Elsa Compuesto on the crackdown: “On the same day, a letter was sent by the AMLC to the BPI main office containing said orders. Then on Jan. 9 and 13 this year, RMP was notified by several BPI branches that its accounts have been suspended: two for the national office and nine for the Northern Mindanao sub-region.

“We vehemently deny involvement in any form of financing terrorism. Donations and funding received by the RMP are used to implement projects and programs to help the marginalized and oppressed. In contrast to the government’s false narrative, RMP has delivered much-needed services to rural communities across the country for 50 years. We have our mission and community partners to confirm this. In freezing our bank accounts, the AMLC is only depriving the rural poor of the help and services they deserve, and that the government refuses to provide.”

“Terrorism financing” sounds to me like a new crime classification in the book, straight out of a paranoid mind and, if not that, a new invention to simply harass and make life awful for those who would not pay obeisance to the powers-that-be.

Remember that RMP’s former national coordinator Sister Elenita Belardo of the Religious of the Good Shepherd is being charged for perjury. Her accuser is Hermogenes Esperon, Mr. Duterte’s national security adviser. Belardo’s arraignment is scheduled on Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. at the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 37.

Her case stems from a petition for a writ of amparo (protection) and habeas data filed by several groups, RMP among them.

Government elements had tagged RMP as a communist front, hence RMP’s need for a writ of amparo.

Also remember Australian Sister Patricia Fox who, for almost two decades, worked with marginalized sectors and supported their causes. The Duterte administration considered Fox, who had headed RMP, “an undesirable alien.” Fox was deported in 2018 after months of battling it out in court with the support of women, church workers and concerned citizens. Mr. Duterte, who had verbally attacked Fox, was unmoved.

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Still facing charges filed by the military are RMP members, among them, three senior citizens: Belardo, 80, for perjury; RMP Northern Mindanao sub-region coordinator Sister Emma Teresita Cupin, 63, of the Missionary Sisters of Mary, for arson, kidnapping, and robbery; and lay worker Angie Ipong, 74, for frustrated murder.

Two of RMP’s volunteer teachers — Melissa Comiso and Nori Torregosa — are still in jail for what RMP calls “trumped-up charges.” RMP-run schools for children of indigenous communities have been forcibly closed.

Comes now the suspicion of “terrorism financing.” RMP had openly declared that one of its main sources of funds is the European Union.

RMP is not alone. The OSG recently filed with the Supreme Court a quo warranto case for the forfeiture of the legislative franchise of media giant ABS-CBN to stop its “abusive practices.” The Philippine media under siege, a déjà vu.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who had herself been charged with sedition (her case has been dropped) along with several others, described the OSG’s move as abuse of authority, “Panggigipit ito, ayon sa pansariling agenda ng iilang nasa poder.”

I will give a summary on the “1001 Malongs” campaign for women evacuees next time. 1001 na salamat!

[Send feedback to [email protected]]

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TAGS: Human Face, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo, RMP, Rodrigo Duterte, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, terrorism financing
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