Why is the government – especially from Duterte to Marcos II — hellbent in using all resources at its disposal to shut down the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) for good?
RMP, an institution which marked its 53rd year of service to the rural poor last Aug. 15, denounces the latest ‘Marcosian’ state attacks in the wake of the Department of Justice (DOJ) recent filing of terrorist financing raps against 16 individuals, mostly members of RMP including nuns. It also expressed serious concerns for the safety those charged, noting that two are already jailed on other trumped-up charges.
The Marcos II government is using the same playbook by predecessor Duterte by demonizing legal democratic organizations such as RMP which provide much-needed services to the people and putting its members in direct harm’s way. Rabid and lethal redtagging, weaponization of the law, and impunity for human rights violations continue to be state policies that must bevigorously opposed.
The individuals are charged with violation of Sec. 8 of the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act (RA 10168) for allegedly making funds available to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). Sec. 8 refers to prohibition against dealing with property of funds of designated persons As consistently stated by Sr. Elenita Belardo, 83, former RMP national coordinator and herself at the receiving end of an ongoing perjury case filed by former National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogens Esperon Jr., all RMP projects are well-documented, reported and accounted for. It has complied with requirements in securing funds for their projects, including audits.
Given RMP’s mandate to serve those in hard -to-reach areas, the beneficiaries are mostly peasants, indigenous peoples and other rural poor.The demonization of RMP’s work has negatively affected various ministries in sustainable agriculture, rural schools, disaster risk reduction, climate change mitigation, health services, defense of human rights, and organic farming.
RMP’s mission work has been seriously hampered because of the relentless state attacks, depriving much-needed services to the poor. This goes against RMP’s mandate which takes inspiration from Pope John Paul when he stressed the conditions of the peasants who were “forced to cultivate the land belonging to others and are exploited by the big landowners, without any hope of ever being able to gain possession of even a small piece of land of their own.” (Vatican Encyclical, 1981)
The DOJ’s charges are based on the testimonies of two so-called surrenderees. Based on information obtained by RMP, one of the two has been presented as a former NPA member after authorities arrested her mother. In exchange for her mother’s release, she executed a spurious statement accusing RMP members of channeling funds to the CPP-NPA. As part of government’s counter-insurgency program, “surrenderees” have been used to link legal democratic organizations to the CPP-NPA while lining the pockets of corrupt officials in the process.
Even prior to the passage of the draconian 2020 Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL), RMP has been the subject of the previous Duterte government’s red-tagging and vilification spree with former NTF-ELCAC spokesperson Antonio Parlade campaigning for funders in Europe not to support RMP and several other organizations. In Dec. 2019, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) froze three of RMP’s bank accounts which onto 2020 eventually expanded to several other accounts. Apart from Sr. Belardo’s active perjury case, RMP’s website has also been ordered blocked by former NSA Esperon a few days before Duterte’s term ended this June. With this latest state attack, Marcos II is showing he is, after all, true to his core as the dictator’s son.
RMP Leadership Team
Reference: Sister Rebecca D. Pacete, MMS (0956-330.95.80)