Lawyers cast doubt over plea bargain deal for cashier convicted of financing terrorism
MANILA, Philippines — A group of Mindanao-based lawyers has questioned the plea bargaining agreement entered for a cashier, who was recently convicted of violating Republic Act No. 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.
According to the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), such a plea bargaining deal means that no trial of the case involving Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) cashier Angelie Magdua has been conducted.
Magdua was specifically charged with violation of Section 8 in relation to Section 7 of R.A. No. 10168, after allegedly channeling donations from non-government organizations to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). At least 15 others were charged along with Magdua.
“On the same day, March 16, 2023, the court granted the plea bargain and held Magdua guilty of 55 counts of violation of Section 7 of RA 10168, but imposed upon her an even lesser penalty in appreciation of her alleged voluntary surrender to the authorities on December 4, 2022,” UPLM said.
READ: Government secures first conviction for terrorism financing
Magdua was represented by lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO). INQUIRER.net has sought the side of PAO for their comments on the said issue but has not received any as of this writing.
According to the UPLM, obtaining a plea bargain cannot be considered a victory – referring to the Department of Justice (DOJ) declaration that the conviction of the cashier was a win.
The lawyers also noted that it appeared there was no grand presentation of the convicted cashier, unlike the government’s supposedly usual proceedings when communist fighters return to the fold.
“Interestingly, the State through the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued no grand announcement of Magdua’s alleged surrender on December 4, 2022, as it usually does when so-called ‘terrorist returns to the fold of the law’,” UPLM 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. Indeed, such ‘victory’ claimed by the DOJ reeks of hollowness and worse, desperation,” it added.
READ: DOJ hails conviction of RMP cashier on terrorist financing
UPLM went as far as to allege that Magdua was reeled in to plea bargaining agreement by “a web of deception and false promises” from the national government.
“While mandated by the Constitution to uphold social justice at all times, the State has instead mastered the vicious acts of red-tagging and vilifying institutions working at the grassroots level and for the marginalized sectors as its client, like the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP),” the group said.
“The fallacious statement of the DOJ about the conviction of Angelie Z. Magdua will not in any way weaken the resolve of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and its 16 workers, all unjustly charged with trumped-up cases of financing terrorism. They will continue to persevere on advancing and defending the rights of the rural poor to land and life that the RMP has been advocating for decades now,” it added.
Members of church-based org face non-bailable raps for terror financing
Lawyers denounce terror financing case vs ‘rights defenders’
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.