MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has asked the European Union and Belgium to cut funding for certain groups the Duterte administration alleges are “fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
Posing this plea to European officials was among the objectives of the February 17 to 20 visit of military and Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) officials to Bosnia, Switzerland, and Belgium.
Brigadier General Antonio Parlade Jr, among the members of the delegation, said they asked the EU and the Belgian Foreign Ministry to stop financing around 30 groups claiming their funds are being used to fuel terroristic acts by the CPP-NPA.
“Maybe with the large amount they are getting, the insurgency we wish to end will be prolonged,” Parlade said in Filipino in a Palace press briefing on Wednesday, March 13.
Parlade claimed that the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) was among these CPP fronts receiving EU and Belgian funding. He described it as a group of nuns who supposedly “radicalize” children.
RMP, according to its website, is a “national organization, inter-congregational and inter-diocesan in character, of women and men, religious, priests, and lay.” It says it was founded in 1969 and that it lives and works with farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, and agricultural workers.
Parlade claimed the EU had released P32 million to the RMP in December 2018 and is set to release another 2 million euros this year.
The Belgian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, supposedly said it was providing funds to 7 Belgian groups who work with groups the military says are CPP-NPA fronts. Among these groups are RMP, Ibon Foundation, Karapatan, and Alcadev (Alternative Learming Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development).
According to Parlade, Belgium has been providing 3 million euros for 5 years to the 7 groups.
EU, Belgium response
The EU and Belgian officials were supposedly “surprised” to hear they were funding supposed “fronts” of the “terrorist” CPP-NPA, said Undersecretary Severo Catura. Catura is the executive director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat.
The officials supposedly committed to stop the funding if the Philippine government can provide more evidence of its accusations against RMP, Ibon Foundation, Karapatan, and the other groups.
“They wanted us to provide more evidence and to file a formal complaint. As soon as they have that they promise to stop this funding,” said Parlade.
Aside asking these European institutions to stop support for certain groups, the Philippine delegation was also in Europe to clear up the “muddled human rights narrative,” said Parlade.
He described those critical of the administration as “masquerading as NGOs and human rights defenders.”
“It was an affirmation by the international community that we are doing things right. We have to challenge the negative information that are very critical of this administration,” said Parlade.
PCOO Undersecretary Joey Sy Egco also defended the “truth caravan” which PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar had said would be used to explain Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s arrest to European media.
Parlade denied the trip was a “junket,” as had been alleged by senators Francis Pangilinan and Grace Poe. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.