February 26, 2019
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a Saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist”
– Archbishop Helder Pessoa Camara
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR) strongly denounces the red-tagging of various organizations and individual, including the RMP, in a flyer released in Cagayan de Oro on Friday, February 22.
Two envelopes each with thirteen copies of said flyer were handed to the security guard of Philtown Hotel in Cagayan de Oro. The flyers list individuals and organizations which are malicioulsy tagged as “terrorist members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and Communist Party of the Philippines.”
Before this, another set of flyers were distributed in different parts of Cagayan de Oro on February 20 that accuses RMP -NMR as “supporter and financier of the NPA”. It also tagged Atty. Czarina and Beverly Musni — two long-time legal consultants of RMP-NMR– and the Union of the Peoples Laywers in Mindanao (UPLM) as “Communists. Atty Czarina Musni had also been a Project Officer of the Healing the Hurt project of RMP-NMR, UPLM and Karapatan. Said flyer also hatefully and wrongfully labelled partnership between RMP-NMR and Xavier University in advocating for Lumad rights as “Communist indoctrination”.
We strongly denounce these attacks on our organization and the dissemination of false news with regard to our programs and advocacy. The RMP has been the longest mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP). RMP-NMR programs and services include Literacy and Numeracy, emergency response, relief and rehabilitation, and rural poor organizing among farmers, indigenous peoples, and fisher folk. The RMP-NMR has been very vocal and active in opposing the declaration and subsequent extensions of Martial Law in Mindanao. Working with the rural poor, we stand as witness to the injustices committed in the name of Martial Law against the poorest of the poor. Human rights awareness-raising sessions, forums, and trainings have been led by RMP-NMR to help stem these abuses.
Tagging the religious men, women and lay worker missionaries of the RMP as Communist rebels or supporters of the NPA is a cowardly and dangerous move. This clearly is an act of those who do not only endanger our lives but also the communities we serve. Putting a “Communist member or supporter” label on us is way to justify the threats, harassment, judicial persecution, illegal arrest and detention, and even extra-judicial killings against human rights defenders.
Over the past weeks, there have been multiple attacks to sow fear among us. Gleceria Balangiao, 38 an RMP staff has been illegaly detained at the 1st SF Battalion in Mampayag, Bukidnon since February 11. After days of coercion, she was later presented as an NPA surrenderee. Following her arrest, an RMP NMR staff received threats thru SMS from an unknown number relating to Balangiao’s arrest and implying that said staff is working with the NPA.
RMP-NMR stands its ground in serving those that are most vulnerable and we will continue to do the Lord’s work despite repeated attacks t by those who wish to keep us silent against injustice and poverty.
We reiterate that our programs and services are not illegal. We call on the faithful to lend their voices in calling out these types of harassment and intimidation against RMP-NMR and other human rights defenders. Let us continue the good fight in supporting each other against the enemies of truth, peace and justice.
Sr. Emma Cupin, MSM
Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Sub-Region