The International Association of Women in Radio and Television – Philippines expressed concern over the recent decision of a Manila court that denied our colleague and detained community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio the right to present evidence and prove the utter falsehoods against her.
This terror financing charge against Cumpio and church worker Mariel Domequil stems from the P557,360 reportedly found in their possession when they were arrested and consequently charged back in 2020.
The Philippine government has since said this is being used to finance the revolutionary movement in the region, based on the supposed account of an eyewitness. Cumpio, for her part, has long said that the cash was intended for her radio program and her current collaborative humanitarian project called, “Stand with Samar.”
According to the decision, copies of court orders seeking Cumpio’s verified opposition to the allegations before her have been served to her through the Clerk of Court and Ex-Officio Sheriff of the regional trial court in Tacloban City. Per the Sheriff’s return dated Jan. 14, 2021, Cumpio and fellow political prisoner Domequil supposedly received copies of the court order.
In a petition filed last month, Cumpio’s lawyer, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said that it is excusable as the alternative journalist was immediately red-tagged upon her arrest, and had difficulties getting a lawyer. They noted that in 2021, the Philippine police even wrote to the Calbayog City Hall of Justice to get the names of lawyers representing political prisoners, creating what the lawyer’s group described as a chilling effect among their ranks.
It was also difficult to get evidence and prepare for their defense as they were detained and with added restrictions due to the pandemic.
Among the other grounds for allowing Cumpio to present evidence also include the fact that the seized cash was not subject to the search warrants being enforced against them, and that both the Communist Party of the Philippines nor the New People’s Army were neither designated nor proscribed as terrorist organizations at the time of their arrest.
All these, however, were dismissed by the Manila court.
As Cumpio’s lawyers are set to appeal the court decision today, we are urging the court to allow Frenchie Mae to present her evidence. We stand with her that there are meritorious and humanitarian reasons why she was not able to join the proceedings. We call on the Manila court to give Frenchie Mae the due process she rightfully deserves.
Most importantly, we pray and continue to work toward the dismissal of all charges against Frenchie Mae.
Free Frenchie Mae Cumpio.