SISTERS' ASSOCIATION IN MINDANAO
Justice for Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB and environmental advocates!
It is disturbing that Church people are persecuted for their work with the poor and for Creation.
Sr. Stella Matutina of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters and three environmental advocates Maria Fe Matibo, Wenceslao Mapa, and Gil Sentinales were illegally arrested, arbitrarily detained, and harassed by the 67th IB in the Brgy. Hall of Taytayan, Cateel, Davao Oriental last February 16.
They have committed no crimes; they have committed no acts that make them deserve detention and being suspected as rebels. Sr. Stella and her companions were in Taytayan on the invitation of local officials to talk on environmental awareness and protection.
But still, the 67th IB officials insist on doing things their way. They blame officials for not coordinating with them in holding the forum. They have conveyed a "veiled threat" to Sr. Stella that she should have rather stayed in the convent than work in a "critical" area where NPAs thrive. They have raised the specter of "fake nuns" roaming the rural areas "to organize the people and turn them against the government."
What shameless insolence towards human rights, the rule of law, and the mission of the church!
These statements disturbingly show that in the communities, the military rules over the people. It is a culture that has remained with the military since Martial Law. It is a culture that disturbs the peace of the community and tramples upon the rights of individuals. It is a culture that does not tolerate freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom to organize, and for us religious, the freedom to evangelize. It is a culture too that looks at people who serve the poor, marginalized and oppressed with suspicion, derision, and hatred. It is a culture that currently takes the form of Oplan Bantay Laya 2.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is sending out the chilling message that no religious can disrupt their plans of protecting the interests of logging, mining, and big business interests. When shepherds of the flock are themselves the ones under attack, the wolves scatter the flock and make them easy prey. Yes, if they could do it with impunity to Sr. Stella and environmental advocates, they care less about violating the rights of ordinary Filipinos.
Church people, including our members who serve and live with the farmers and Lumads in Mindanao have faced this persecution. Sr. Mary John Dumaug of the Religious Good Shepherd had been harassed for her missionary work with the Banwaon in Agusan del Sur. Mateo Morales, an RGS lay worker also from Agusan del Sur, was killed by Cafgu men in 2006. The convents of the Missionary Sisters of Mary and the Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Butuan City were raided by police in November 2006 without any basis at all and without search warrants.
We are afraid that Sr. Stella's case is another example of the Arroyo government's tacit, if not direct, approval of state-sponsored human rights violations including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and displacements.
It is disheartening that today, while those who stand their ground to protect the environment are being intimidated and killed, the First Family --- Mrs. Arroyo and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo--- is embroiled in mining interests including those in Mt. Diwalwal, Compostela Valley.
Amidst this state of oppression, we remain steadfast to fulfill the mission of the Church which is to assert the dignity and rights of people and the integrity of Creation. We carry this task to care for the environment as "a matter of common and universal duty." (Compendium of Social Doctrine # 466).
As we work to protect the integrity of Creation, we also call for Justice for the people. The Arroyo government must stop militarization in the communities, and stop the plunder of large-scale mining and other aggressive destruction of the environment.
Justice for Sr. Stella Matutia, OSB and environmental advocates!
Stop Military Persecution of Church People!
NO to large-scale Mining and Militarization!
Uphold the Integrity of God's Creation!
Sr. Elsa C. Compuesto, MSM
Mobile No.: 09174350089
February 19, 2009