Sr. Patricia Fox defends fellow missionary charged with perjury

JC Gotinga
Sr. Patricia Fox defends fellow missionary charged with perjury

Rappler

The Australian nun insists Sister Elenita Belardo is innocent, and has done nothing but advocate Lumad children's right to receive an education, and better lives for peasants

MANILA, Philippines – Patricia Fox, the Australian nun who was deported by the government after working 27 years as a missionary in the Philippines, defended her colleague Sister Elenita Belardo, who had sought legal protection against military harassment, but was in turn accused of perjury by the National Security Adviser.

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

Both nuns are connected to the group Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP). Belardo is its national coordinator, and Fox, its corporate secretary until she was ordered deported by the government in November 2018 for supposedly engaging in political activities.

RMP runs schools for indigenous or Lumad children in impoverished rural areas. Early this year, the government accused the group of acting as a front for the Communist Party of the Philippines, saying it “radicalizes” its students and teaches them to rebel against the government.

In February, Major General Antonio Parlade Jr of the Armed Forces of the Philippines led efforts to discredit RMP and several other progressive groups before the European Union (EU). The government then asked the EU and Belgium to stop funding those groups.

RMP denied the accusations, saying its schools provides education to Lumad children where the mainstream education system is absent.

ACTIVIST NUN. Sister Elenita Belardo leads the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in educating impoverished Lumad children. She also stood up to the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos decades ago. Photo from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines

In May, RMP joined two other progressive groups in seeking a protection order from the Supreme Court (SC) against military harassment and intimidation, or “red-tagging.”

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, one of the respondents in the groups’ SC pleading, sued them for perjury, including Belardo, whom he accused of lying under oath when she signed the pleading as a member of a “registered non-stock, non-profit organization,” when RMP’s registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission was supposedly revoked in 2003.

Belardo denied this, saying her group has consistently submitted requirements to the SEC since 2003, and it never flagged any issue with its registration.

On December 6, the 80-year-old Belardo posted bail after the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court found probable cause to try her for perjury. The SC had earlier rejected her group’s plea for a protective order.

Fox insisted that Belardo is innocent. She said RMP has only been working to improve the lives of peasants since 1969.

“But whatever the facts, the reality that this government would pursue such a person as [Belardo] shows its total moral bankruptcy,” Fox said.

Fox is back in Australia after having lived nearly 3 decades in the Philippines. – Rappler.com

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.