Sr. Elen on witness stand: “I am at peace because I did not lie”

Sister Elenita Belardo, RGS, an elderly nun embroiled in a perjury case filed by a security adviser, maintained her innocence during a court hearing on June 13.

Presenting herself as principal witness before Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 139, Sr. Elenita Belardo, RGS, “Sr. Elen” to those close to her, belied that she and her co-accused perjured by misrepresenting the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) as an organization duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The 83-year-old Catholic nun said that, when the RMP learned of the revocation in 2009, it worked on its re-registration by submitting a board resolution and its General Information Sheet (GIS) that it failed to submit in the past and which triggered the revocation of its SEC registration.

She added that the since 2010, the RMP – a church-based institution helping farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous peoples – also regularly submitted its GIS and Financial Statements, which the SEC duly received.

National Union of People’s Lawyers’ Atty. Alnie G. Foja, who serves as the nun’s legal counsel, shared in a recent Facebook post Sr. Elen’s reaction when asked about the perjury case: “I am at peace because I did not lie.”

Foja was impressed by the nun’s mental and spiritual fortitude at the witness stand during the hearing, which lasted for three hours. The hearing was dedicated to her testimony.

“Sr. Elen is a sharp witness,” Foja posted. “At the witness stand, she was a picture of a perfect and dignified calm.”

“No cross-examination tactic or technique will ever work against a religious who swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, not only before a court of law for the purpose of giving a testimony, but before a Supreme God, in this life and for eternity,” Foja wrote.

Sr. Elen, from the Religious of the Good Shepherd, is a veteran advocate of land reform and peasants’ rights. She was the national coordinator of RMP in May 2019 and in her capacity as such, represented the RMP in a petition for writ of amparo and habeas data from which the perjury case stemmed.

A writ of amparo is a legal remedy that obligates state authorities to afford protection to those whose life, liberty or security are threatened, while a writ of habeas data may be used to compel public officials or employees engaged to divulge data related to the security of those to whose favor the writ was issued.

Among others, the following were named as respondents in the petition for writ of amparo and habeas data: President Rodrigo Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, military chief Benjamin Madrigal, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon who was the private complainant in the perjury case.

The petition was filed with the Supreme Court but was referred to the Court of Appeals which dismissed the same in June 2019 citing insufficient evidence to prove the violation of the petitioners’ right to life, liberty, privacy and security.

In July 2019 Esperon filed the perjury raps against Sr. Elen, Roneo Clamor, Cristina Palabay, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Jose Mari Callueng, Rev. Wilfredo Ruazol, Elisa Tita P. Lubi, Sr. Maria Cupin, Joan May Salvador and Gertrudes Ranjo-Libang. Perjury is a deliberate assertion of falsehood under oath.

All of the accused signed separate Verifications/Certifications for the petition for writ of amparo and habeas data.

In November 2019, a city assistant prosecutor cleared all but Sr. Elen of perjury. However, in February 2020, another prosecutor revived the charges against all of Sr. Elen’s co-accused, claiming none of the respondents “cannot feign ignorance” about RMP’s status.

“The group only sought protection from the Court against state-sanctioned red-tagging but they later found themselves slapped with a criminal complaint for perjury… not because their claims of harassment and red-tagging in their petition were tainted with perjury but because, according to Gen. Esperon, Sr. Elen deliberately lied about the actual status of the RMP’s SEC registration,” Foja wrote.

Sr. Elen’s co-accused are scheduled to testify in the next scheduled hearings.#

(Photo: Sr. Elen with Atty. Foja and two other RGS sisters during the posting of bail for the former in December 2019.)

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