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Church leaders decry renewed red-tagging of bishops

The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) has strongly decried the renewed red-tagging of Bishop Felixberto Calang and Bishop Antonio Ablon.

The bishops’ names and photos appear, among other peace advocates, human rights defenders and leaders of people’s organizations, in flyers distributed around Cagayan de Oro on March 10.

The flyers accused the Mindanaoan bishops as members of the CPP-NDFP-NPA. The IFI Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang strongly believes the government and military are behind this vilification campaign.

“The only group which has the resources, power, training and interest to perpetrate such irresponsible and malicious act of red-tagging is the state security officers in the AFP and PNP and the rouge elements they coddle and maintain,” Bishop Timbang said in his social media post on March 7.

Bishop Ronelio Fabriquer, Ramento Project for Rights Defensers (RPRD) board chairperson, said the unrelenting violent attacks against church people demonstrate how human rights, democracy and civil liberties in the country have been continually worsening.

“The attacks against our fellow bishops is an attack against the entire Iglesia Filipina Independiente,” said the bishop. “The clergy and lay faithful must all stand against attempts to silence our prophetic voice and witness for the Gospel of Christ.”

RPRD executive director Fr. Jonash Joyohoy said the continuing harassments and threats to IFI clergy and church workers must be countered and completely put to stop.

“Those behind the malicious acts of vilifying, harassing and threatening faith-based human rights defenders must be made accountable for their evil doings,” the priest said.

“The IFI has already approved a resolution to seek legal protection for its clergy and lay people enduring state persecution,” Fr. Joyohoy said.

The Executive Commission of the IFI adopted in June 2019 a formal resolution for the filing of a Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data before the court.

Fr. Joyohoy said the urgency of taking such action becomes clearer to the IFI with the continuing and mounting attacks against its bishops, priests and church workers throughout the country.

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