Karapatan slams bogus DOJ victory without trial

Human rights alliance Karapatan dismissed the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) gloating statement over the recent conviction of a former staff of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) by an Iligan City court for alleged terrorist financing.

Angelie Magdua, a former cashier of the RMP, was reportedly convicted by Iligan City Regional Trial Court Branch 1 after a plea bargaining agreement where she pleaded guilty of violating Section 7 instead of Section 8 of RA 10168 otherwise known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act. Magdua pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the crime of financing terrorism which has a penalty two degrees lower than that of a principal offender.

Quoting the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) which represents the other officers and members of the RMP-Northern Mindanao who are respondents in the terrorism financing case, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said, “A conviction based on plea bargain sans trial on the merits of the case is hardly any victory at all.”

“It is no surprise that neither the DOJ nor the NTF-ELCAC, in their self-congratulatory and self-serving statements on Magdua’s conviction, do not at all mention the fact that the conviction was the result of a plea bargain, meaning there was no trial to speak of, and therefore no judicial scrutiny, no cross-examination of the State’s witnesses by the lawyers for the defense,” said Palabay.

“We agree with the UPLM’s view that the DOJ’s much-vaunted victory ‘reeks of hollowness and worse, desperation,'” added Palabay. “The DOJ is likely wary that its witnesses’ credibility will crumble as they are subjected to the defense’s cross-examination, and it therefore wants to make Magdua’s conviction via plea bargain as the template for other cases dealing with terrorist financing.”

“Karapatan firmly stands behind the courageous lawyers of the UPLM and their equally courageous clients from RMP-Northern Mindanao, as they steadfastly fight the trumped-up charges they are facing until their innocence is finally proven,” concluded Palabay.