The Philippines’ Justice department on Monday announced the filing of criminal charges against 16 individuals, including Catholic nuns, for allegedly conspiring to divert money from foreign sources to fund non-government organizations that have links with the underground communist movement.
Among those charged are Emma Teresita Cupin, Susan Dejolde, Ma. Fatima Napoles Somogod, Augustina Juntilla, Maryjane Caspillo, Melissa Comiso, Czarina Golda Selim Musni, Maridel Solomon Fano, Jhona Ignilan Stokes, Hanelyn Caibigan Cespedes, Angelie Magdua, Emilio Gabales, Mary Louise Dumas, Aileen Villarosa, Evelyn Naguio, and Aldeen Yañez.
In a statement, the Justice department said Musni, Fano, Dumas, and Villarosa are allegedly members of the communist movement and were made payees of several checks issued under the name of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Region.
The charges were based on sworn statements submitted by two individuals who claimed to be former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. The alleged witness said the RMP sends project proposals to foreign funders and divert the money to communist terrorist groups.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council has earlier directed banks to freeze the accounts of RMP for 20 days, which the Court of Appeals extended to six months.
The RMP repeatedly denied allegations linking the organization to the communist movement.
In a statement, the ecumenical youth group Student Christian Movement of the Philippines denounced the filing of the case by the Justice department.
The group said the Justice department and Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla “act as Pilate’s court in charging trumped-up charges against church people who have had a veritable record on helping peasants in the countryside.”
Kej Andres, SCMP spokesperson, said “Jesus was also deemed subversive as he overturned the status quo.”
“As with Christ, RMP and all persecuted church people will be vindicated as history judges tyrants and oppressors unkindly,” said the youth leader.
RMP is a religious organization, which is inter-congregational and inter-diocesan in character, of religious women and men, priests, and lay people that was founded on Aug. 15, 1969.
It is a “mission partner” of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, now known as the Conference of Major Superiors in the Philippines.
The faith-based group is currently under scrutiny of the Philippine government for alleged terrorism financing and for allegedly being an aboveground communist organization. – with a report from PNA