A group of Catholic nuns who are facing charges of financing terrorist organizations said they are “peace-builders” who work to address the root causes of armed conflict and social unrest.
“As missionaries, we are unapologetic and unwavering in our commitment to work in poor areas, even when these areas are visited by militarization and armed conflict,” read a statement from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).
“Bringing services and accompanying grassroots leaders are effective methods for resolving community issues and sparking change and development that benefit the communities where we serve,” read the statement posted on the news site of the Philippine bishops’ conference.
The Department of Justice has earlier filed charges against 16 RMP workers, including five nuns, for allegedly diverting funds from foreign organizations to alleged fronts of the underground communist movement.
In its statement, the RMP said the allegations are an attack on the ministries of the missionaries who are involved in documenting human rights abuses.
“The law has been weaponized against us,” read the statement. “We will not cower, even as we are afraid. God gives us strength and wisdom, quickening our steps and assuring our safety,” it added.
“Those who seek to besmirch our ministry, by saying it supported or financed ‘terrorism,’ should be held to account; their lies will only further the suffering and poverty in marginalized communities,” added the group.
In an earlier statement, 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 of criminal offenses.
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.
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.