Catholic nuns from a missionary order in the Philippines have denounced a criminal charge accusing them of financing terrorism and violating the country's anti-terrorism law.
Ucanews.com reported the nuns from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines issued a statement Aug. 18 to denounce the criminal charge filed by the Department of Justice.
The nuns termed the allegation of terrorist financing as "preposterous" as they claimed that "all our projects and activities are well-documented, reported and accounted for."
"All these allegations and charges were not based on solid evidence and had demonized the works of our religious congregation," the nuns said in a statement.
On Aug. 15 the Department of Justice filed a criminal charge against 16 individuals, including five nuns from the congregation, for a non-bailable offense of allegedly donating to and soliciting funds for the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army.
The justice department earlier said the sisters failed to refute the allegations and charges against them, which led the prosecutor to believe there was probable cause to indict them of the charge.
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, however, said their indictment was part of government repression to silence dissenters, particularly critics of two political families accused of massive human rights violations.
"This is part of the worsening state of repression against human rights defenders, especially those who are against the policies of two former Presidents Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and Rodrigo Duterte. ... Why is the government -- especially from Duterte to Marcos Jr. -- hell-bent on using all resources at its disposal to shut down the congregation for good?" the religious sisters asked.
"The accusations have negatively affected our various ministries in sustainable agriculture, education, health, environment protection, and defense of humans. When our fight for the common good is at stake, especially the interests and rights of the poor and the marginalized, we must speak," they added.
Ucanews.com said the nuns expressed their concern about the allegedly concocted testimonies of two former members of the New People's Army, who said the congregation had been helping terrorists. The nuns said one former NPA member testified against them in exchange for the release of her mother.
"The Marcos Jr.'s government is using the same playbook by predecessor (Rodrigo) Duterte by demonizing legal democratic organizations such as RMP, which provide much-needed services to the people, and (by) putting its members in direct harm's way," the statement said.
Retired Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said that by charging the nuns, the state intended to send a "chilling warning" to silence Marcos and Duterte dissenters within the Catholic Church.
"The message is very clear. Those who want to criticize the present (Marcos) administration should think twice or suffer the consequence of facing criminal prosecution," Bishop Bastes told ucanews.com.