It has come to our knowledge that one of our staff was being harassed by someone who only introduced her himself as an intelligence asset of the 4th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The supposed intelligence asset maligned the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR), alleging that the organization is hoarding members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
This accusation is not new to RMP-NMR and is in fact the latest of a series of attacks we faced in just these past four months. However, what has alarmed the RMP-NMR Sub-Regional Coordinating Body is the threat against the family of our staff. According to the text message sent anonymously from mobile number 0936-233-1932, they have put her and her family under surveillance and that they are capable of doing anything to her if she does not cooperate. The messages even got to the point of insinuating they would rape her if she does not do what they want her to do. The harasser also claimed that under Martial Law, they could do anything against the organization, arrest anyone, including the staff.
We wish to reiterate our organizational statement in the face of these attacks against us.
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines’s history started, as can be read in our website and in other materials we have, in 1969, through the efforts of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), with a commitment to support the rural poor in their issues. In the years that followed, the work of RMP spread throughout the country and included support for the organizing of rural poor communities – farmers, farm workers, fisherfolks, Indigenous Peoples. We have, therefore, always been present in these communities, communities that are unfortunately, also victims of severe human rights violations and abuses.
The organizations we work with are often also under attack, being vocal with their criticisms of the government, fighting for the rights of the poor communities. We work in conflict areas – NPA areas as claimed by the government, NPA supporters as accused by the military – because these are the areas that are least served by the government, most vulnerable and prone to attack from state forces themselves.
We call on the state forces to stop their harassment of our staff, their attacks against our organization. If the government could not do its work in providing services for its constituency then it should welcome our efforts to provide help to the communities in need.
We ask for support from our fellow Human Rights Defenders and from all who understand the necessity of our work in the face of these threats that put our staff in danger. We assert our legitimacy as an organization, an organization that has always been at the forefront in defending the rights of the peoples who are often voiceless, violated and abused. We are and will continue to be with the people the state is killing.
RMP-NMR Sub-Regional Coordinating Body
20 November 2017