We are not surprised, but very much concerned about the recent lies peddled by a Facebook page Hukbo.com tagging Sister Susan Bolanio as among the enemies of the State, associating her with the communists. Time and again, people helping communities struggle against big corporations, people fighting for social justice, and community leaders advocating to protect the environment have been harassed, killed and tagged as terrorists or part of the communist group.
Although the said post tagging Sr. Susan as “Red” was taken down and no longer available since October 2 per report of the UCANews, a mere suggestion of Sr. Susan’s affiliation with the communist group is a serious threat to her life since we see a pattern of killings of religious personalities in the past months which is very alarming.
We, from the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) affirms the work of Sr. Susan to help people in far-flung communities fight for their land and life, like her work in TAMASCO, Lake Sebu. Her social ministry comprises both cooperation and critique when needed, of local and regional governance units and special government bodies, including the military south of Mindanao in the past 3 decades. She believes that her evangelical hallmark is to be poor and seeking to be with the poor at all times wherever she is called to serve. She would ride horses, cross rivers, and sleep in shacks to be with people and to serve them.
For years, Sr. Susan has been acting as the executive director of the Oblates of Notre Dame (OND) HESED Foundation, Inc. in General Santos City; after working as the Director of Social Action Center (SAC) of the Diocese of Marbel in 2005. The Stella Maris Seafarers’ Center has been established through Sr. Susan’s guidance. The center assists tuna fishermen who have been arrested for illegal fishing in neighboring countries. She is also helping capacitate some rural women in Sarangani province in establishing and managing self-help groups. She is the Chairperson of our network, Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc.
She has been instrumental in the success of the recently concluded national caravan of PMPI called Salakyag that traveled from Zamboanga City to Manila to bring to lawmakers the issue of communities affected by large-scale mining. She facilitated a meeting with the then Commander of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) and now AFP Chief Carlito Galvez, Jr. to provide security for the caravan on its journey.
Thus, this “red-tagging” is absurd. The social media post intends to discredit the legitimacy of her pastoral and social development work. Her commitment to being in solidarity with the poor is second to none and to be included in this kind allegation undermines her reputation and undeniably puts her life in danger, especially that Mindanao is under martial law.
“Red tagging” is an old ploy to crackdown on critics by military forces, state-sponsored social media machinery, and a business conglomerate to silence opposition and dissent.
Earlier this year, a former lawmaker, four former Catholic priests, and a U.N. special rapporteur are among the 600 alleged communist members of the Philippines declared as “CPP-NPA terrorists” by the Department of Justice (DOJ) petitioned before a Manila court.
We are reiterating that the information labeling Sr. Susan Bolanio as part of the communist group is certainly baseless and a malicious lie. The propaganda could be all part of a ploy to discredit her work and at the same time assert fears in the communities she is helping. This is also a systematic plan of the powers that be to deflate the spirits and voices of people considered a threat to both the political clans in power as well as corporate groups benefiting from the political clans.