An ecumenical group of Catholic and Protestant bishops in the Philippines denounced as “baseless and fabricated” the charges filed last week against 16 affiliate members of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).
“Such a case against the RMP and its affiliate members are purposively filed to vilify and demonize and eventually to force them to abandon their mission,” read a statement from the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) on Tuesday, August 23.
Several RMP members, including several nuns and a lawyer, have been among those tagged by the Department of Justice last week of diverting funds from foreign organizations to alleged fronts of the underground communist movement.
They were accused of violations of Section 8 (ii) of Republic Act 10168 or the anti-terrorism financing act, a non-bailable offense.
“This is part of an effort by the powers that be to silence the opposition against anti-people, anti-community, anti-environment projects of big business interest whose insatiable greed for super profit look down at the people, the communities and the environment as dispensable and disposable,” read the bishops’ statement.
In its own statement last week, the RMP, which marked its 53rd year on August 15, decried 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 EBF said the RMP “has been doing its mission for decades already helping the poor peasants and the Indigenous People in their struggle for fullness of life, justice, peace and human rights.”
“They have empowered these sectors to work against systemic repression and oppression instigated by big business interests in consonance with the government’s anti-people, anti-democratic policies and laws,” said the bishops.
They slammed what they described as “concocted allegations” against the missionaries as “outrageous, spurious, and outright ridiculous.”
“RMP has exhibited a proven track record of faithful compliance to proper documentation and reporting required by its partners. Such allegations appear to be nothing but brazen lies,” read the bishops’ statement.
The bishops said “the harassment and unjust persecution and prosecution of the faithful religious and lay people by State security forces and the agents of the Court will not deter them from performing their mission and commitment for the fullness of life for all, most especially the marginalized, underprivileged, deprived and oppressed sectors of society.”
“Like the apostles of old who were persecuted as they proclaimed the fullness of life in God’s reign, we, too, say that, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority,’” they added.
The Church leaders called on the government to drop the charges against the RMP and its 16 affiliates and to repeal the anti-terrorism law.
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.