MANILA (UCAN): The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) expressed its “utmost dismay” with the Philippine government’s Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), after it ordered a 20-day freeze on the group’s three Bank of the Philippine Islands accounts on “probable cause,” claiming they are “related to terrorism financing.”
The RMP said the move “greatly encumbers our mission to collectively witness and act as Christ’s disciples with the rural poor.”
In a resolution dated 26 December 2019, the AMLC also ordered the bank to submit details of related bank accounts and proposed the filing of a petition before the Court of Appeals to extend the freeze order to six months.
In January, the bank notified the Church organisation that several accounts had been suspended: two for the national office and nine for its chapters in the northern Mindanao region.
“These accounts were created and maintained for completed and ongoing projects of RMP as well as for its internal operations,” the organization said in a February 6 statement.
It also denied involvement “in any form of financing terrorism,” adding that donations and funding received are used to implement projects and programmes to help the poor.
“We have our mission and community partners to confirm this,” the RMP said.
“In freezing our bank accounts, the AMLC is only depriving the rural poor of the help and services they deserve and that the government refuses to provide,” the group added.
However, the organisation has been red tagged—accused by government security officials of having links with communist rebels.
“We’ve been accused of being a communist and terrorist front. Our members have been harassed and threatened, forcing some of them to seek sanctuary elsewhere,” read the group’s statement.
Several senior RMP members have also been charged with various crimes including perjury, arson, kidnapping, robbery and frustrated murder. Several tribal schools that were established or run by the organisation in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao have also been recently closed.
In its statement, the group said that “helping the poor, as Christians living out concretely your faith imperative and following the Church mandate to establish the Church of the Poor, will put your liberty and life at risk.”
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, a national organisation, was established on 15 August 1969, as a mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors. It is inter-congregational and inter-diocesan, and made up of women and men religious, priests and laypeople.