The activists and nuns were charged to silence their advocacy for human rights, critics say
Good Shepherd Sisters along with others accused of perjury leave the court after the judgment of acquittal was read in their presence in Manila. (Photo supplied)
Published: January 09, 2023 11:18 AM GMT
A court in the Philippine capital Manila acquitted ten members of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines including two religious nuns from perjury charges on Jan. 9
Missionary of Sisters of Mary Sister Emma Cupin and Good Shepherd Sister Elenita Belardo were among the human rights activists whose perjury charge was junked by the court in Quezon City of Manila “on the ground of reasonable doubt.”
A perjury charge refers to a criminal act that occurs when a person lies or makes statements that are not truthful while under oath.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte’s national security adviser Hermohenes Esperon filed a case against the nuns in 2019 for allegedly lying under oath that their group – the Rural Missionary of the Philippines – was a non-stock, non-profit organization.
Human rights groups condemned the perjury charge as part of harassment to silence the nuns and their companions from their strong advocacy for human rights.
“Those cases were filed to silence church organizers because they (government operatives) know the poor are empowered by the mission of the Catholic Church. When the poor are empowered, they begin to question the abuses done to them by the rich and the powerful,” Karapatan member Carlo Frias told reporters.
On Jan. 8, religious nuns, together with ecumenical groups, staged a prayer rally for the acquittal of the ten accused in the perjury case as the court delivered the verdict. They also participated in a Mass and lit candles.
“Human rights defenders, church people, and sisters from different religious congregations gathered on Sunday morning in celebration of a Mass with special intentions in Good Shepherd Convent, Quezon City,” the Good Shepherd Sisters said in a statement.
After the Mass, the sisters rang bells in the streets in public witness of support for human rights defenders calling for a favorable decision.
Rural Missionary of the Philippines is a Church-based national organization, comprising priests, nuns, and laypersons working for the village poor.Philippine court acquits religious sisters of perjury charges – UCA News