Elderly Filipino nun charged with perjury posts bail

Sister Elenita Belardo is accused of making false allegations about officials in Supreme Court petitions
Elderly Filipino nun charged with perjury posts bail

Sister Elenita Belardo, a member of the Religious of the Good Shepherd congregation, heads to court on Dec. 6 to post bail after a warrant for her arrest was issued for perjury. (Photo courtesy of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines)

An 80-year-old Filipino missionary nun whose arrest has been ordered by a Manila court for alleged perjury has avoided jail by posting bail.

Human rights lawyers accompanied Sister Elenita Belardo of the Religious of the Good Shepherd congregation when she went to court to apply for bail on Dec. 6.

The nun, who used to head the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, was earlier charged with perjury for allegedly giving false testimony to the Supreme Court.

Also charged with Sister Belardo were leaders of human rights group Karapatan and women's organization Gabriela.

The charges against the activists were later dismissed but the nun's "defense of good faith" was not accepted by the court.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr filed the charges against the activists and the nun after they filed petitions with the Supreme Court against alleged government harassment and intimidation.

The former military chief accused the activists of making false allegations about government officials in their petitions.

He accused the nun of falsely claiming that the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The organization supposedly failed to submit required general information sheets and financial statements from 1997 to 2003.

Esperon also accused the activist organizations of diverting funds to communist rebels.

A court in Quezon City in capital Manila subsequently issued an arrest warrant for Sister Belardo.

"[Sister Belardo] is not a perjurer nor a criminal, unlike Esperon who has been military chief ... and has been implicated in corruption charges and various rights violations," said Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines appealed "for prayers of support and words of encouragement in this time of trial and tribulation."

In a statement, the church group said the perjury case against the nun aims "to stop us from speaking about widespread human rights violations."

"Ultimately, we know that this is part of the efforts to discredit and vilify our organization and to impede our missionary work and advocacy for land, justice and peace," it added.

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