Karapatan denounced the increasing use of Republic Act 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act in the political persecution of humanitarian workers and human rights defenders in the Philippines, as the human rights group expressed support for individuals from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao who were recently charged under the said law.

“With the charges against human rights lawyer Czarina Musni, missionary nuns and humanitarian workers of the RMP Northern Mindanao as well as other similar cases, we believe that the law on terrorist financing and suppression is being more frequently used as a tool of political persecution and repression of those whose advocacies and work expose the gaps in government services and the policies and programs that are detrimental to poor communities in the country,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Aside from this recent case against the RMP-NMR, RA 10168 has been used by those in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict against the RMP National Office, the United Church of Christ of the Philippines Bishop Hamuel Tequis and five others from UCCP Haran, Amihan Federation of Peasant Women, and five other NGOs in Mindanao since 2020. Bank accounts of these organizations have been frozen, possibly affecting their humanitarian and human rights work.

Prior to these forms of judicial harassment, these institutions and groups have been subjected to various online and offline threats and harassment, including red-tagging. RMP’s Sr. Elenita Belardo and Sr. Emma Cupin are also facing charges of perjury from former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon. Former RMP coordinator in Central Luzon Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez was killed in December 2017. “These deplorable acts in the name of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign are brazen violations on the human rights defenders’ rights to due process and their freedom of association,” Palabay added.

“The cases, like the recent charges against RMP-NMR, are based on either unintelligible intelligence reports of the military and the NTF-ELCAC, or fabricated and perjured testimonies of alleged witnesses. The malevolent intent of their actions is clear—to attempt to derail the work of these organizations and to silence them,” Palabay continued.

She stated that RMP-NMR has done exemplary work in the region in delivering humanitarian support and in advocacy work. RMP-NMR was able to deliver food and medical aid to thousands of those in poor communities during the aftermath of typhoons Sendong, Pablo and Haiyan and among the evacuees in Marawi in 2017. It had numerous literacy and numeracy education initiatives as well as research on human rights issues and environmental concerns.

“RMP-NMR has been doing its work for numerous years, while those behind the lies against the institution have nothing to show except for their years in terrorizing communities and cult-like worship of former President Duterte. We stand with RMP-NMR in contending with these recent attacks, as we call for the dismissal of the charges against the individuals facing these trumped up charges,” Palabay concluded.