DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A human rights advocacy group here decried the latest vilification against an Aglipayan bishop who was tagged allegedly by the military as supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed-wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Ryan Amper, spokesperson of Barug Katungod Mindanao, said the attack against IFI Bishop Antonio Ablon was the government’s stern warning for him to end his being critical against the Duterte administration.
“The writings on the wall are a carefully crafted message meant to stop Ablon from his advocacies lest he meet his end. It can only be the hand of a government which has never been cryptic about its intent to silence critics, including a woke church,” Amper said.
Ablon was the subject of the government’s campaign when the fence of Aglipayan church in Tigbao town, Zamboanga del Sur was vandalized with words, linking him to the underground movement. Other sectoral organizations were also subjected to the same re-tagging campaign of the government.
Amper said the red-tagging campaign of the government “subjects any one to danger and gives license to state agents to attack critics as what we have already seen in the past three years under Duterte.”
Just recently, killings of priests under Duterte have hogged the news. In previous administrations, staunch rights advocate Bishop Alberto Ramento, an IFI bishop from Tarlac, and Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio were both vilified before they were killed, according to Amper.
Ablon is one of Barug Katungod Mindanao´s convenors and chair of the Western Mindanao chapter of Karapatan.
He led a fact-finding mission in Barangay Saad, Dumingag town, in Zamboanga del Sur earlier this year and found that the AFP’s touted “surrenderees” were ordinary residents of the said village who were tricked by government troops into signing documents admitting they were NPA combatants.
According to Amper, Ablon’s human rights advocacy has earned the ire of military officers assigned to the 1st Tabak Division under the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM).
In June 23, 2018 , Ablon was visited by Lt. Col. Merlowe Patria, Batallion commander of the 53IB-PA, Philippine Army purportedly to get his cooperation. Lt Col. Patria said Saad village is their special project of cleansing the village from communist rebels.
Ablon is also an outspoken critic against largescale mining in the Zamboanga Peninsula. He was co-convenor and host of the 2014 international investigation into the operations of TVI Mining in Midsalip and Boog towns in Zamboanga del Sur which found dozens of human rights abuses and adverse environmental impacts of the Canadian mining firm’s gold and copper project.
“The series of vilification and harassment comes after the pronouncement of President Duterte and its military forces about the much-disparaged Red October Plot. The plot which has quickly been exposed as a hoax is a grand scheme of vilification, red-tagging, and harassment against critics of the government’s human rights abuses,” Amper said.
But Amper said that AFP wants only “to breed hatred against church people and churches that have not been cowed by Duterte’s fascist attacks on communities.” (davaotoday.com)