CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — A religious order has denounced the complaints filed against some of its members in Mindanao by state forces calling these charges as “baseless” and “malicious.”

In a statement dated June 20 but was furnished to the media Friday, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) said the charges are “clear example of judicial harassment against Church workers in an attempt to stop their efforts in helping the rural poor.”

Facing cases are Sr. Emma Teresita Cupin, the sub-regional coordinator of the RMP in Northern Mindanao, and two lay workers, who were included in a subpoena for various rights defenders and advocates for their alleged involvement in an attack staged by the New People’s Army (NPA) on a military detachment in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur on December 19, 2018.

“Our members were accused of participating in said action which led to the capture of 2 military men and 14 CAFGUs by said armed group,” said RMP national coordinator Elenita Belardo in a statement.

CAFGUs are the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit, the auxiliary arm of the Philippine Army.

RMP said implicating its members in these incidents are absurd as their whereabouts during the period were well-documented.

“It is also worth noting that Sr. Emma is 63 years old, while of the lay workers, Ritchel Hilogon, is five months pregnant at the time. Are we supposed to believe that they were involved in attacking a military camp? Or that they ‘visited’ the rebels’ camp in the mountains where the CAFGU members were held as Prisoners of War?” RMP said.

Belardo said “this step by the government and the military is very dangerous. It unmasks the real essence of Martial Law: helping the poor means you put your life and liberty at risk.”

The group said it is dismaying to know that those who follow the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in having preferential treatment for the poor are the ones who are being targeted by the enemies of peace and justice.

“But no matter the threats and dangers, RMP will not waver in our stand with our members and the rural poor,” Belardo said.

She added, “We will exhaust legal means to prove the innocence of our members against these ridiculous charges. We will take all measures to protect our members and partners from those who wish us harm.”

“As RMP approaches its Golden Jubilee, we will continue to stand for truth, justice, and peace. Together with the rural poor and the support of the religious and lay rights advocates, we shall overcome these threats,” Belardo said. (

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