Photo The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and their allies protest extrajudicial killings at a 2018 rally. (Courtesy of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines / Malu Maniquis)
After close to 50 years of working among people who live in poverty in rural areas and doing mission work under the radar, members of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, an organization of women and men religious, priests from various congregations, and lay workers, now find themselves under government scrutiny, suspected of aiding communist rebels.
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines national coordinator, Good Shepherd Sister Elenita Belardo says that the organisation has been "effective in raising people's awareness on the plight and demands of our farmers, fisher folk, and indigenous peoples and in exposing the grave abuses of human rights in the country."
Formed in 1969, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines is one of the many mission partners of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines.
In February, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines workers were surprised to find themselves tagged as a "communist front" in a complaint filed with the United Nations by Vicente Agdamag, deputy director general of the Philippines' National Security Council.
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines is present in many places in the Philippines where communist rebels operate and where poverty is prevalent. The communist insurgency in the Philippines, considered to be the longest-running in Asia, has lasted for almost 50 years.
The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, which represents 327 religious congregations, has "strongly condemn[ed] the continuous barrage of malicious allegations" against the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. The association said red-tagging, accusations that the group is communist-influenced, is "inimical to democracy" and "in its most extreme ... can lead to warrantless arrest, detention without charges, torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings."
Signed by association co-chairs Good Shepherd Sr. Regina Kuizon and Franciscan Fr. Cielito Almazan, the April 8 statement lauded the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines: