Those who know Sr. Elen would describe her as a warm, gentle, soft-spoken and calm.
Prior to her years serving the rural poor through the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), she served as a teacher, counselor, and then a principal of the Maryridge School in Tagaytay during the years of the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s.
Sr. Elen Belardo, in action and in prayers, stood against Marcos’s martial law. She supported the embattled youth movement and encouraged the Church’s role to speak out during dark and perilous times.
After leaving her teaching and administrative role, she became active as a missionary in the countryside. She alongside other Good Shepherd Sisters lived in for genuine agrarian reform and against pro-landlord programs and policies of the government.
During her time there, she realized how good her life had been growing up in a landed family in Silang, Cavite and how comfortable they were compared to peasant families who had to work every single day to survive.
This realization led her to be a member of the RMP. Through the RMP, she was able to gain perspective in assessing the situation of the rural sectors and how she can contribute towards genuine change that can affect the lives of the peasant families she was working with.
Sr. Elen was elected as the National Coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) for two terms. First in 2007-2010 and then in 2016-2019.
As the National Coordinator, she has been involved in various literacy programs, advocacy work for rural welfare, as well as the establishment of schools in indigenous communities.
Under the Duterte regime, the attacks against progressive groups and individuals, civil society organizations and church people have intensified in an effort to suppress the growing dissent amid the worsening state of the Filipinos. The red-tagging and terrorist labeling have become more systematic as President Duterte issued Executive Order No. 70 in December, 2018, creating a national task force (NTF) to end local communist armed conflict and institutionalizing the so-called whole of nation approach.
Among those in the crosshairs of the NTF is the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP). The government apparently sees the missionary work with the rural poor as threats, thereby responding with attacks and harassments.
Sr. Elenita Belardo, former National Coordinator is now facing a baseless and retaliatory perjury case filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon. The Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 37 has ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest against her. Sr. Elen has posted bail and is set to face arraignment proceedings this year.
It is clear that this case is a reprisal for the petitions for writ of amparo and habeas data that the Karapatan, Gabriela and RMP filed last May. Ultimately, it is a part of the efforts to discredit and vilify the RMP and hinder their missionary work and advocacy for land, justice and peace.
An organization of priests, sisters and laymen has denounced a Quezon City prosecutor’s ruling that allowed a perjury case to proceed against Sr. Elen Belardo and ordered the issuance of an arrest warrant against the 80-year-old nun.
However, after conducting a preliminary investigation, the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon’s complaint against the majority of the respondents but not against Belardo.
Sr. Elsa Compuesto, the current RMP national coordinator said: “ While we welcome the dismissal of the case against Sr. Emma Cupin of RMP-Northern Mindanao and other copetitioners from Karapatan and Gabriela, we are alarmed that they decided to pursue the allegations against Sr. Elen, who spent most of her life working with the rural poor as a testament of her love and commitment to the poor.”
She continues: “ We know that this is part of the efforts to discredit and vilify our organization and to impede our missionary work and advocacy for land, justice and peace. “
Founded in 1969, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines has seen different phases in Philippine history, including national upheavals and changes in the church. Its members have made breakthroughs in the church’s missionary endeavors and immersed themselves in the rural grassroots communities they serve.