Philippine Church workers — priests, nuns, lay people — denounced what they described as “worsening state repression” following the filing of charges against 16 people, including Catholic nuns, who were accused of diverting funds to alleged terrorist fronts.
“Why is the government … hellbent in using all resources at its disposal to shut down the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) for good?” read a statement from the organization released to the media on Thursday, August 18.
Several RMP members have been among those tagged by the Department of Justice early this week of diverting funds from foreign organizations to alleged fronts of the underground communist movement.
The organization, which marked its 53rd year on August 15, denounced what it described as the latest “Marcosian” state attacks. It also expressed “serious concerns” for the safety of those charged, noting that two are already jailed for other “trumped-up” charges.
The religious group accused the new administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of “using the same playbook by predecessor [former president Rodrigo Duterte] by demonizing legal democratic organizations.
“Rabid and lethal red-tagging, weaponization of the law, and impunity for human rights violations continue to be state policies that must be vigorously opposed,” read the RMP’s statement.
The organization maintained that “all RMP projects are well-documented, reported and accounted for” and 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,” it added.
The organization said the “demonization” of its 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,” it said, adding that it goes against RMP’s mandate.
The group noted that even prior to the passage of the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Law), the RMP has been the subject of the government’s “red-tagging and vilification spree.”
RMP is a religious organization, which is inter-congregational and inter-diocesan in character, of religious women and men, priests, and lay people that was founded on Aug. 15, 1969.
It is a “mission partner” of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, now known as the Conference of Major Superiors in the Philippines.
The faith-based group is currently under scrutiny of the Philippine government for alleged terrorism financing and for allegedly being an aboveground communist organization.