Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox expresses solidarity with 80-year-old nun Elenita Belardo

Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS, the Australian missionary deported by the Bureau of Immigration last November 2018, expressed solidarity with Sr. Elenita Belardo, RGS, an 80-year-old nun facing a trumped-up perjury case filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. 
Sr. Patricia Fox immersed herself in missionary work in the Philippines for 27 years, but was targeted by the Duterte government for her active involvement in issues of human rights. The situation is similar to the current predicament of Sr. Elenita, who is facing reprisal and political persecution for her work in the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, which has been red-tagged by the government. 

“Words escape me to hear that the case against Sr. Elen has been pursued by this regime…. I stand in solidarity with Sr. Elen as she defends against this injustice to her, and in solidarity with all those facing trumped-up charges in the Philippines,” she said in a message dated December 9.

Like Sr. Fox who suffered from government harassment and intimidation for speaking out against injustices and standing alongside indigenous and rural communities, Sr. Belardo caught the ire of the Duterte regime for her work as then National Coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), a national organization of women and men religious, priests, and lay faithful who live and work with people from marginalized sectors.

Describing Sr. Belardo as a “long-time worker to improve the lot of the peasants,” the Australian missionary said that the embattled nun has “tirelessly advocated on their behalf.”

Sr. Fox lamented how the government has chosen to pursue a case against Sr. Belardo instead of honoring her for her commitment in serving those oppressed and marginalized in rural areas: “She has done this in faithfulness to her commitment to serve the least as a Sister of the Good Shepherd. Rather than being awarded for her commitment over so many years, a government which reveals itself every day as a government for the rich and powerful, now has the audacity to use the law as a weapon against this elderly religious sister.”

The case that Sr. Belardo is facing stemmed from the perjury charges filed against her and 11 other officials of RMP, Karapatan, and Gabriela as the government’s retaliation over the three organizations filed before the Supreme Court a petition for Writs of Amparo and Habeas Data to which Esperon, along with several government officials, including President Rodrigo Duterte is a respondent.

Backing Sr. Belardo and RMP’s tireless commitment in service, Sr. Fox said, “I have worked with Sr. Elen in the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. Again, this is an organization which had tried to improve the lot of the peasants since 1969.”

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary-General and one of the respondents in Esperon’s “reprisal” charges, earlier lambasted the Duterte regime for harassing an elderly nun, whom she described as “more credible than Duterte and all his generals combined”. “Sr. Elen has spent years away from the spotlight, dedicating herself in literacy programs. While this government is focused on destroying schools and denying the dismal state of education in the country, the likes of Sr. Elen have long invested their time, love, and effort, in helping communities attain their right to education and right to self-determination.”

“Sr. Elen is an upright, trustworthy and honest woman who would not resort to perjury,” Sr. Fox said in support of the embattled nun who belongs to the Religious of the Good Shepherd.

“But whatever the facts, the reality that this government would pursue such a person as her shows its total moral bankruptcy,” she ended.