DAVAO CITY , Philippines — The Duterte administration’s malicious red-tagging is now targeting a ranking church official of the Iglesia Filipinia Independiente in Mindanao.
Bishop Antonio Ablon, a bishop of the Aglipayan Church, said the attacks against IFI are now more brazen after the Armed Forces of the Philippines disclosed to the public about the so-called “Red October,” an ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte being hatched alleged by the communists in the country.
Ablon deplored the series of markings painted on the cement fence in our of their churches in Zamboanga del Sur and similar markings along the highway in Barangay Lacupayan in Tigbao town, Tigabao and Kumalarang towns in Zambonga del Sur.
On September 28, the cement fence of IFI Tigbao Parish in Zamboanga del Sur located along the highway to Zamboanga City was vandalized with the words “IFI=NPA,” according to Rev. Felix Espra Jr.
Another markings were also spotted along the highway in Lacupayan, also in Tigbao town. Painted in blue color, the words “Bishop Ablon = NPA” and “IFI=NPA BAYAN” were found along the highway boundary of the municipalities of Tigabo and Kumalarang in Zamboanga del Sur.
Ablon said IFI formed and deployed a team to probe the alleged vandalism in Barangay Lacupayan, Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur. The probe team further discovered similar markings such as “IFI= NPA BAYAN,” “BAYAN-MUNA = NPA,” “NPA SALOT- IFI= NPA,” “IBAGSAK CPP NPA,” and “UCCP=NPA.”Other markings the IFI probe team found were “BM = NPA”, “BISHOP ABLON = NPA”, “LFS = NPA,” and “RMP=NPA.”
What can be gleaned from these vandals were sectoral organizations tagged by the military as front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Starting off with Bayan, referring to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, the umbrella organization of Left-wing organizations in the country; Bayan Muna, a Leftist political party; LFS or League of the Filipino Students which is the country’s largest Leftist student organization; RMP or the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and UCCP or the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).
“It should be noted that on the other side of this highway, a makeshift is situated and sheltered a group of soldiers from the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion and 5Ist Infantry Battalion and CAFGU who were guarding a bridge under construction nearby,” Ablon said.
According to Ablon, the troop’s ground commander identified only as Sergeant Carpio told the IFI probe team that they saw the vandals in the morning of September 27, 2018 together with a Barangay Kagawad whose residence is situated nearby.
“He denied involvement but when asked what they can do, he said that he cannot and will not dare to erase it as it might be the doing of their higher ups he might end up suspected to be sympathizing the left (referring to the NPA’s),” he said.
But Ablon linked this red-tagging incidence to the series of solidary mercy missions held from June 19 to 21, this year in a Lumad community in Barangay Saad, Dumingag in Zamboanga del Sur by Aglipayan dioceses of Pagadian, Oroquieta and Ozamiz, the UCCP North-West Mindanao Jurisdiction, the RMP, the Roman Catholic Church and other sectoral groups.
One of the goals of the mission was to investigate the alleged reports of aerial bombings occurred last May 29 to 30 that forced the Subanen (Lumad) community to abandon Barangay Saad in Dumingag town in Zamboanga del Sur amid reports of militarization, according to Abalon.
Apart from bombardments, Abalon said that Barangay Saad residents complained of harassments, branding the local residents to have close ties with New People’s Army, the CPP’s armed-wing.
“After the said Solidarity and Mercy Mission, the bishops of Ozamiz and Pagadian including the other clergy were visited by soldiers coming from the 53rdInfantry Battalion, and 10th Infantry Battalion,” he said.
Ablon added that residents of Barangay Saad were continuously harassed, intimidated and vilified to be members of the NPA.
“Even the Punong Barangay of Barangay Mansanas, Josefina, Zamboanga del Sur, Hon. Juanito Caramba who was with us during the Solidarity and Mercy Mission was also visited in his barangay and elements from 97th Infantry Battalion and 44th Infantry Battalion and 53rd Infantry Battalion take turns in encamping their barangay.”
Rhee M. Timbang, IFI’s Obispo Maximo, renounced the recent wave of attacks against Aglipayan bishop Antonio Ablon, which he said, came in the wake of the AFP’s threat to crackdown against the critics of the Duterte administration.
“This incidence is highly alarming considering that these tagging and labelling do not only grossly malign and vilify the IFI and its ministry, they likewise irresponsibly place the life and security of Bp Antonio Ablon and other IFI bishops and clergy in danger,” he said.
Staying true to its roots in activism, the IFI has been consistent in calling out the government on several social and political issues that affect the marginalized Filipinos. The IFI, being one of the members of the National Council of the Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), was at the forefront in defending the rights of the Lumad in Mindanao including other sectoral issues on justice, and peace.
Timbang said red-tagging invites soldiers and paramilitary groups to harass those who are perceived to be enemies of the state.
“Red-tagging and labelling serve to harass, intimidate and threat persons who are considered as enemies of the state, but worst these serve as license for their liquidation or neutralization, to borrow military terms, as state security officers are given the open permission to shoot and kill those whom listed in their order of battle,” he said.
He added, “This is frightening because the red-tagging and labelling justify the killings since church people like Bp Antonio Ablon and many others in and outside the IFI are unjustly grouped and lumped up together as one and same with the NPA which the government through the AFP and PNP is waging war for almost a half century now!”
Enemy of the state
According to Timbang, the so-called red-tagging and labelling of the IFI started to become obvious during the time of President Gloria Arroyo when the AFP and PNP classified the IFI among many others as “enemy of the state.”
“The practice continued in President Noynoy Aquino’s time and obviously this malicious propaganda has been intensified in President Duterte’s regime. Today, several IFI clergy and lay from the north down to the south are harassed, intimidated and threaten; a number of them are being placed under military and police surveillance or tailed upon by unidentified armed persons,” he noted.(davaotoday.com)