Christian group slams red-tagging of Aglipayan bishops
MANILA, Philippines – A major group of Christian churches condemned accusations that two Christian leaders, Bishops Felixberto Calang and Antonio Ablon of the Aglipayan Church, belong to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
"The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) condemns in the strongest possible terms the continuing harassment and red-tagging of our church leaders, members of the clergy, and church workers," the NCCP said in a statement Tuesday evening, March 12.
The NCCP said Calang and Ablon were included in lists of "terrorist members of the New People's Army and Communist Party of the Philippines" anonymously circulated in Cagayan de Oro City on February 22.
The group said "suspected military agents" could be behind these "actual threats and intimidation" against church workers.
Calang and Ablon of the Aglipayan Church, formally known as the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), were not alone.
The NCCP said the list of alleged terrorists also "maliciously tagged" IFI national coordinator Father Christopher Ablon, Father Rolando Abejo of the Movement Against Tyranny, and Karapatan Northern Mindanao spokesperson Father Khen Apus. The list also allegedly included activists, lawyers, and journalists known for promoting human rights.
Before this list came out, the NCCP said Aglipayan church worker and former NCCP vice chairperson Aldeem Yanez was also harassed.
"These actual threats and intimidation from suspected military agents have intensified and become blatant as military operations are legitimized through martial law in Mindanao. These threats have become too real and jarring.We see these as deplorable forms of repression, human rights violation, and an act of state terrorism," said the NCCP.
"We call on the government to stop these vehement attacks," the group added.
This is the latest in the alleged persecution of religious leaders under President Rodrigo Duterte, who is accused of cracking down on dissent as he pursues authoritarian policies. (READ: Crackdown on missionaries fuels dictatorship fears)
Recently, at least 5 Catholic priests, including Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, have reported receiving death threats for speaking out against Duterte's war on drugs. But 3 of the priests said they will not be cowed, telling the President, "Digong, hindi kami takot sa 'yo (Digong, we are not afraid of you)." – Rappler.com