Cong Corrales .
“This is not about terrorism. Terrorism is the excuse. This is about economic and social control.” – Edward Snowden on government eavesdropping
AUTHORITARIAN governments around the globe almost always have insecure yet narcissistic, not to mention megalomaniac, leaders at its helm and people scared into submission under the bow.
Here in the Philippines, you’re either a fanatical follower of this administration or a “delawan,” drug addict, or worse, a terrorist. For despotic rulers, there can be no tolerance for dissent no matter how legitimate these may be. The fanatics would say they have nothing to fear because they have not done anything illegal. Well, what do you say when you’re tagged as a terrorist even if you are not? What will you do then?
I’m sharing My Wit’s End space today with an important message from a church that has been vilified recently — the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. Please, read on.
A Message of The Most Revd Rhee M. Timbang, Obispo Maximo, Iglesia Filipina Independiente
To all IFI clergy and faithful and all people of goodwill:
I am furnished here at Kuching, Malaysia (while attending a consecration event with a sister Church) with a very disgusting if not revolting report about the labeling and tagging of the IFI and its clergy, specifically, Bp Antonio Ablon as NPA. The Incident Report documented deliberate acts which (1) vandalized the church fence in our Gatub Chapel in Zamboanga del Sur located along the national highway towards Zamboanga City with markings tagging the IFI as NPA; and (2) serialized the red-tagging of the IFI and Bp Antonio Ablon, together with UCCP and other legal sectoral organizations as NPA through markings along the various points in the national highway of Zamboanga del Sur particularly at Brgy Lacupayan in the Municipality of Tigbao and at the Municipality of Kumalarang. Zamboanga del Sur is part of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the IFI Diocese of Pagadian shepherded by Bp Antonio Ablon as being its diocesan bishop.
This incidence is highly alarming considering that this tagging and labeling 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. Red-tagging and labeling serve to harass, intimidate and threaten 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 (or the organized rogue military/police elements under their command) are given the open permission to shoot and kill those who listed in their order of battle. This is frightening because the red-tagging and labeling 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!
This is terribly fearsome because the government and the AFP and PNP since from the very beginning of the insurgency campaign have always demonstrated their incapability to know and determine who are their real enemies in this long protracted war on-going in the country. The government and state security officers only see red, and their temerity to vanquish the NPA includes eliminating or silencing the church and church people and other legal organizations which are only advocating in behalf of the struggling Filipino people. Instead, the government’s insurgency campaign has been littered by the waste of innocent lives way-laid due to red-tagging and labeling.
This incidence strikes as highly unjust and uncalled for the IFI and for Bp Antonio Ablon. These red-tagging and labeling discredit and undermine our precious sacred ministry as a Church – a ministry that serves only to be faithful to the mission entrusted by our Lord Jesus and articulated in his liberating gospel, a ministry that serves only to be consistent with our history following the examples and witnesses of Bp Gregorio Aglipay and Isabelo de los Reyes Sr. and their likes in the nationalist and revolutionary tradition of the Filipino people. Our mission and history as IFI predated the NPA and our ministry and prophetic witness is sourced up in the loving, life-giving and liberating gospel of our Lord Jesus, a ministry which tries to live out the faith and heritage of the “patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and those of every generation who have looked to God in hope.” These red-tagging and labeling are therefore misplaced and ridiculous in one sense and baseless and preposterous in another.
These red-tagging and labeling of the IFI started to become obvious during the time of President Gloria Arroyo when the AFP/PNP classified the IFI among many others as “Enemy of the State” and cause its popularization in the countryside and urban poor. 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. Today has become a full season of red-tagging and labelling, and of harassment, intimidation and threat just because the IFI and its bishops, clergy and lay leaders are firmed in their vocation and witness and prophetic advocacy to criticize the government against its anti-life, anti-poor and anti-people policies, to promote people’s rights and defend civil liberties, to protect national sovereignty and patrimony, to seek for a just and lasting peace and to struggle with workers, farmers, urban poor and the lumads for their self-determination and defense of ancestral lands. These incidences of red tagging and labeling and of harassment, intimidation are threats against the IFI and its ministers do need to be exposed and opposed and denounced! These acts are highly atrocious and condemnable! We suspect that these acts do only originate from those who are in power in the government, in the AFP and PNP. They have all the manpower, the funds and the technology to launch deliberate and serial efforts. These acts are perpetrated by those who are anti-peace and those who refuse to let justice reign in our land.
We ask IFI members to pray for the safety and well being of Bp Antonio Ablon, and other clergies whom we know who are in similar situation, and together with other Filipinos of good-will condemn these acts. We ask everyone to be vigilant and exercise militancy on their own rights as well as of other people by holding prayer and discernment groups and by speaking up loudly against abuses. We ask everyone to support the continuing appeal for the GRP and NDFP to resume the peace talks and end the armed conflict by addressing the root causes that spawned insurgency in our midst.
We task every IFI members and people of faith to reflect upon and take a lesson on the words of our Lord Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). These words are calling us for a life of faithfulness and blessedness. As his followers in today’s time, the Lord has called us to walk on his way:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In these critical times in our national life, this call requires a bold, faithful and courageous witness from among us. But this also demands vigilance and militancy in us so that forces which are anathema to justice and peace cannot deceive and cower us to walk on the other way.
May God guide, protect and embolden us as we persevere walking faithfully and vigilantly on his way.