“The government of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. is using the same playbook by predecessor Rodrigo R. Duterte by demonizing legal democratic organizations such as Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, which provide much-needed services to the people and putting its members in direct harm’s way,” it said in a statement.
The group added the indictment showed the continuation of red-tagging, impunity for human rights violations, and the “weaponization of the law” by the government.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) on Monday said government prosecutors indicted 16 members of the church-based group for allegedly financing activities of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). The agency noted the charges were based on testimonies of former rebels.
The members failed to answer the charges during a preliminary investigation, the DoJ noted. “No defense on the part of the respondents was received by the prosecuting panel,” it said in a statement.
RMP claimed that one of the ex-rebels who implicated its members gave a “spurious” or false testimony in exchange for the release of her mother.
RMP is a church-based group made up of Catholic priests and lay people. The group supports farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous groups and educates them about their rights, according to its website.
The religious group’s website, along with 25 other alleged CPP-NPA supporters, was ordered blocked in June by the National Telecommunications Commission upon the request of former National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr.
The Anti-Terrorism Council has labeled the communist party as a terrorist group.
In April, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal seeking to reverse its decision upholding the validity of the Anti-Terrorism law, which was signed in 2020.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council has said the law would help it counter so-called dirty money. — John Victor D. Ordoñez