A bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in the Ilocos region denounced the military’s renewed red-tagging of priests and faithful.
Diocese of Batac Bishop Emelyn Dacuycuy condemned the 81st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) for vilifying the clergy of her diocese and linking IFI adherents with the New People’s Army (NPA).
The woman bishop said reports reached her office about a community meeting organized by the military in Gulpeng village, Pinili, Ilocos Norte, on Feb. 16, during which she, clergy members and churchgoers were associated with the NPA.
“The 81st IBPA military personnel told the villagers that the peasant organization where many of them are members was a communist front,” she said. “The military also claimed that the Diocese of Batac was supporting the alleged NPA organization.”
Gulpeng is a peasant community where most residents belong to IFI.
Bishop Dacuycuy added: “During the meeting, the military forced the villagers to put their names on a document which declared them as surrenderees.”
The residents signed the document out of fear of backlash if they did not cooperate.
The IFI members in Gulpeng further reported that the 81st IBPA specifically mentioned Rev. Rolly Molina as among the “NPA supporters.”
The priest, who serves as Bishop Dacuycuy’s Canon at the IFI Batac Cathedral, resides in Gulpeng with wife Genalyn. Genalyn was among those compelled to sign up as an NPA surrenderee in the Feb. 16.
“This is not merely a malicious attack against anybody — not just against Rev. Rolly and Genalyn, myself and my clergy, and our community in Gulpeng. This is a shameless affront to IFI,” Bishop Dacuycuy lamented.
IFI has long been involved in the advocacy to universalize basic social services, implement genuine social reform and uphold human rights, said Bishop Dacuycuy. “These are the reasons why our bishops, priests and lay people are being red-tagged.”
“By accusing us as communist supporters, the government believes it can silence our prophetic voice as a Church,” the bishop added. “The government may continue to threaten, harass and intimidate church people, time and again try to red-tag us and include us as targets in its counterinsurgency war, but the Diocese of Batac will not cower.”
“We will firmly stand by our faith to work and witness for the Gospel in solidarity with the poor and powerless,” the bishop said.
Bishop Dacuycuy is the first woman bishop of IFI. She was installed as the bishop of the Diocese of Batac in 2019.