Karapatan calls for dismissal of civil forfeiture, terror financing case vs. missionary group

Human rights alliance Karapatan expressed support for the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), as the missionary group faces another hearing of a civil forfeiture case filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 37 today, February 8, 2023. Karapatan joined calls by various faith-based and human rights organizations for the immediate dismissal of the charges against RMP.

Karapatan Secretary General said that the ongoing civil forfeiture and terrorism financing cases against RMP, which stem from fabricated testimonies, have resulted in the violation and arbitrary and unjust restriction of the rights of the RMP and the further deprivation of the impoverished and marginalized communities that the RMP serves.

Aside from the civil forfeiture case, sixteen individuals, including four nuns who are members of RMP, are facing non-bailable charges before an Iligan City court for alleged violation of Section 8 of Republic Act 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 punishable with 40 years imprisonment, and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P1,000,000.

“We assail these moves as a prelude to the unjust and arbitrary designation of the RMP as ‘terrorist,’ following similar moves made against other individuals like Dr. Natividad Castro, a community doctor who has been servicing mostly Lumad and poor peasant communities in the Caraga region for decades. These measures are patently anti-poor,” slammed Palabay, citing the RMP’s more than 50 years of service to marginalized communities of farmers, indigenous people, fisherfolk and agricultural workers.

“The terrorist financing charges are reckless, false and baseless, since the RMP has consistently passed independent checks and reviews by strict and reputable funding agencies, including the European Union. Red-tagging, terrorist branding and hailing to court the real people’s heroes like the RMP nuns and development workers expose them to attacks and violations of their rights by State security forces and put their lives in danger,” Palabay stressed.

“Laws are clearly being weaponized against those critical of government policies, and those who fill the vacuum by providing much-needed services to the most severely neglected communities. The State must immediately cease and desist from this nefarious practice and provide support and encouragement instead of persecuting and prosecuting activists with lifelong pro-poor advocacies,” she added.

Karapatan today also joined protest actions at the Department of Justice calling for the resumption of peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Philippine government and demanding the removal of the arbitrary terrorist designation by the Anti-Terrorism Council of the NDFP, the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as well as individual peace consultants and Dr. Natividad Castro.

“The resumption of the peace talks, as well as the reaffirmation of and adherence to previously signed agreements such as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, is the way to go in tackling the roots of the armed conflict, instead of the arbitrary, dangerous and erroneous designation by the ATC that leads to gross violations of international humanitarian law and threats to lives, security and liberty, as well as the right to due process ” she ended.