Church group denounces terror financing charges

August 22, 2022 - 1:55 PM
A March 14, 2021 file photo shows members and supporters of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines during a rally in Manila. (RMP via CBCP News)

Catholic organization Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) has denounced government charges that it is financing communist rebels, saying these are nothing but ‘demonization’ of their mission works.

The accusations, according to RMP, have “negatively affected” its various ministries in sustainable agriculture, education, health, environment protection, and defense of human rights, among others.

“RMP’s mission work has been seriously hampered because of the relentless state attacks, depriving much-needed services to the poor,” the group said in a statement released Thursday.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier indicted 16 individuals, mostly members of RMP including five nuns for a non-bailable offense of allegedly providing funds to the New People’s Army.

The accused were charged under the country’s anti-terror law, which penalizes individuals providing financial support to NPAs, which have been tagged as a terrorist organization by the government.

The DOJ froze RMP’s several bank accounts in 2019 after its two supposed witnesses testified that the church group wired money to the rebels in northern Mindanao.

The agency alleged that the 53-year-old church organization used its foreign-funded projects to provide financial support to the insurgents.

The RMP has strongly denied the allegation, saying that all its projects “are well-documented, reported and accounted for”.

“It has complied with requirements in securing funds for their projects, including audits,” it added.

The religious group expressed “serious concerns” for the safety of those charged, noting that two are already jailed “on other trumped-up charges”.

RMP’s former national coordinator Sr. Elenita Belardo is also at the receiving end of an ongoing perjury case filed by former National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr., in 2019.

A few days before former President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ended last June, RMP’s website was among those ordered blocked by the government for alleged links with “terrorists”.

The faith-based group claimed that the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., is using “the same playbook” of his predecessor “by demonizing legal democratic organizations” and “putting its members in direct harm’s way”.

“With this latest state attack, Marcos is showing he is, after all, true to his core as the dictator’s son,” it said.

Founded in 1969, the RMP is one of the many mission partners of the Conference of Major Superiors in the Philippines (CMSP), formerly the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP).