“We regard with disgust the continued attack against church workers and advocates, farmers and indigenous communities, and all other human rights defenders in Mindanao and the entire country.” – Rural Missionaries of the Philippines–NMR
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — A long-time lay worker of a Catholic-run organization was arrested by elements of the Philippine Army, Sept. 8.
Joel Q. Yadao, a member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) , was arrested at around 11 a.m. inside the compound of a Roman Catholic Church in the municipality of Villanueva, Misamis Oriental, according to RMP-Northern Mindanao Region. Yadao, 44, was meeting another lay worker in preparation for the October peasant month campaign.
According to RMP-NMR, a certain Capt. Joe Ryan Manalo of the Philippine Army led the arresting team. Yadao is charged with double murder and multiple murder in connection with the pre-2013 elections armed encounter between Mayor Ruthie Guingona’s convoy and the New People’s Army (NPA) in the hinterlands of Gingoog City.
In a statement, RMP-NMR coordinator Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, MSM, condemned the “trumped-up charges” against Yadao and called for his immediate release.
“We denounce this act of judicial harassment to disable Joel from doing his human rights work for the peasants of eastern Misamis Oriental,” Somogod said.
As a lay worker of the RMP, Yadao has been assigned to organize and assist existing peasant organizations in the towns at the eastern part of Misamis Oriental. RMP-NMR credited Yadao for assisting organizations like the Balingasag Farmers’ Association and other community-based organizations of peasants under the Misamis Oriental Farmers’ Association (MOFA). The group said thousands of poor farmers in eastern Misamis Oriental towns benefited from these agrarian campaigns, including efforts to increase farm gate prices of bananas, increase of wages of manghornalay (seasonal agricultural workers) and elimination of usury, among others.
Somogod said the RMP-NMR office and its staff have been put under intensified surveillance this year, which caused dislocations in their work for the rights of poor farmers and indigenous peoples.
“We regard with disgust the continued attack against church workers and advocates, farmers and indigenous communities, and all other human rights defenders in Mindanao and the entire country,” Somogod said. “We condemn the evil structures that perpetuate human rights violations and impunity.”
RMP-NMR vowed to join and assist thousands of poor farmers and indigenous peoples from Misamis Oriental to march this October Peasant Month to protest landlessness and the sustained persecution of human rights defenders working for land rights and access to resources.
Last month, Pastor June Ver Mangao of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) experienced threats and harassment.