One after the other, state security forces harassed regional seminaries of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in Pangasinan and Guimaras.
Saint Paul’s Theological Seminary (SPTS) in Jordan, Guimaras, reported an illegal intrusion into its premises in the early evening of Nov. 18, at a time when the seminary was holding a community Eucharist. An unidentified person entered the seminary compound without any notice and randomly took photos around.
The stranger, allegedly a state security asset, quickly took flight when seminarians prevented him from going further into the seminary compound.
A similar incident occurred at Aglipay Central Theological Seminary (ACTS) in Urdaneta, Pangasinan, just over a week ago. Five police personnel made their way into the ACTS compound in the morning of Nov. 10 unannounced.
One officer in civilian clothes took random pictures around the seminary community and its facilities without asking for any permission or stating their purpose. The other officers, who were in their Type C police uniform, also went around the premises, took photos of the place and interviewed seminary students.
The officers, who later were identified as elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Urdaneta, carried pistols and a rifle when they 0broke into the seminary compound.
The incident at ACTS was prologued by the red-tagging of one of its seminarians on Nov. 8.
Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang denounced the intrusions as blatant violations of the privacy of the seminary communities and a form of harassment targeting the IFI.
He also condemned the red-tagging of IFI clergy and members as rehashed accusations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Red-tagging, the bishop said, intends to “impute malice on their persons and ministry as church people.”
“The attacks against them are now going at a higher level because of the huge government funds poured out on AFP, PNP and NTF-ELCAC in order to subsidize these vilification and red-tagging operations,” OM Timbang said in a Nov. 19 statement.
In an earlier statement on Nov. 11, the church leader urged President Duterte’s government, the AFP, PNP and NTF-ELCAC to stop the practice of red-tagging. He also demanded that Congress defund NTF-ELCAC for using government funds to underwrite its unconstitutional acts.