The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines issued a statement of support for Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzan who has been tagged as a communist supporter by a top government official.
“These baseless accusations against a long-time social activist, feminist, human rights defender and theologian place her safety and well-being in danger,” read a statement from the influential religious organization.
“It is these reckless and malicious posts from a government functionary that can trigger online and offline attacks by those who wish to paint our world in black and white,” added the statement released to the media on July 6.
Sister Mary John used to head the women religious superiors in the country and in 2013 became the founding chairperson of the Task Force for the Orientation of Church Personnel.
“In more than six decades of unrelenting and dedicated service to the cause of the poor and oppressed she has followed, as a true disciple, the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ,” read the organization’s statement.
The group said Sister Mary John “may have taken avant-garde positions on issues of church and society but in no way was it meant to aid and abet the enemies of the State.”
“It is a faithful commitment to prophetic witnessing that animates her words and actions,” added the influential association that runs most of the country’s Catholic schools and institutions.
“We in the association take this latest attack on a fellow religious very seriously,” said the group, adding that they they extend their “solidarity and unwavering support” to Sister Mary John, “and all who have been accused, harassed, imprisoned by the enemies of truth, justice and peace.”
Earlier, Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy of the Presidential Communications Operations Office accused Sister Mary John of being a supporter of communist rebels.
Badoy posted on her social media account that the nun “is given a place of honor in a communist terrorist organization.”
Newspaper columnist Rigoberto Tiglao also accused the nun of being “a ranking official” of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“If she’s not a party cadre, her achievements in furthering the advance of the communist insurgency are more important than an official membership,” wrote Tiglao in his newspaper column.
Sister Mary John founded and headed the country’s largest women’s rights group, Gabriela, which Tiglao claimed is an “aboveground” communist organization.
The accusations against the nun came after she expressed her opinion on the conviction of journalist Maria Ressa over a cyber libel case.
Sister Mary John, a missionary Benedictine sister, obtained her doctorate degree in Philosophy major in Linguistic Philosophy, summa cum laude, at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
She also has a degree in Missiology, magna cum laude, at the Wilhelmsuniversitaet in Munster, Germany.
In the Philippines, she established the Institute of Women’s Studies, Women Ecology and Wholeness Farm, and the Women Crisis Center.
She was the national chairperson of Gabriela for 18 years and later served two terms as president of St. Scholastica’s College in Manila.
Sister Mary John has been involved in developing a distinct Third World theology and was executive secretary and treasurer of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians.