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Bisschoppen bedreigd op de Filipijnen

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Iglesia Filipina Independiente
Het regime van president Duterte leidt op de Filippijnen tot een klimaat van straffeloosheid: het aantal politieke afrekeningen met dodelijke is enorm. Een beschuldiging dat iemand een drugsdealer, terrorist of communist is, kan een doodsvonnis betekenen. Zeker wanneer je die beschuldiging met grote rode letters op huizen laat schrijven. Geestelijken van de Iglesia Filipina Independiente, zusterkerk van de Oud-Katholieke Kerk, zijn hiervan ook doelwitten. Met name bisschop Felixberto Calang (Cagayan de Oro) is nu hierdoor getroffen. Hij is een bisschop die zich onder meer inzette voor de vredesonderhandelingen tussen de Filipijnse regering en het National Democratic Front, waar ook de Oud-Katholieke Kerk van Nederland een rol in speelt. Eerder werd bisschop Carlo Morales al gevangen gezet en was er een soortgelijke lastercampagne tegen bisschop Antonio Ablon.

De bisschoppen van de Oud-Katholieke Kerk van Nederland sluiten zich aan bij protesten tegen deze gang van zaken, drukken hun grote bezorgdheid uit over de veiligheid van deze bisschoppen en de rechtsgang in de Filippijnen, en verzekeren alle betrokkenen van hun gebed. Ze onderschrijven ook onderstaande verklaring die door Duitse Christenen opgesteld werd.

“We, church leaders and church workers in Germany, are deeply disturbed by and alarmed of the recent and worsening spate of vilification and red-baiting cases involving our brother and sister church leaders and church workers in the Philippines, more particularly in Mindanao, where Martial Law prevails.

It was not long ago when churches and church workers here in Germany have shown support to Bishop Carlo Morales, a man of God and peace advocate, when he was falsely and unjustly accused, arrested, and detained in jail for about a year in Ozamiz, in Mindanao.

Very recently, we were informed that leaflets maliciously and irresponsibly red-tagging some clergy of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (I.F.I.) were being circulated in Cagayan de Oro City and Northern Mindanao since February 22, 2019. It was brought to our knowledge that immediately before this happened, the IFI, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), and other civic and people’s organization conducted a national accompaniment mission to provide support to Lumad (indigenous communities in Mindanao in the provinces of Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental) and to peasant leaders wrongfully charged and detained by the state, particularly Jomorito Goaynon and Ireneo Udarbe, who were illegally arrested. It also dealt with the case of the illegal search on the office of the Misamis Oriental Farmers Association (MOFA) office in Tagologan, Misamis Oriental.

We also know that, since last year, names of IFI priests and bishops, like that of Bishop Antonio Ablon’s, were written in highways and streets in Mindanao accusing them of being terrorists and communists. In January this year, a similar “smear campaign” occurred when on IFI church walls in Cagayan de Oro City, where Bishop Calang is the bishop, paints were sprayed with words bearing similar accusations that IFI is or protects terrorists and communists.  

Bishop Felixberto Calang, who is among those identified and alleged in the leaflet distributed on February 22, 2019 as terrorist and communist, was convinced that the said slander and smear campaign is meant to prevent support groups of indigenous Lumads and poor farmers from exposing the truth about the various human rights violations of Martial Law in Mindanao directed against the latter’s leaders.

Bishop Calang, who had been here many times in Europe as independent observer of the Peace Talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front and who has advocated for the rights and welfare of Lumads in Mindanao is someone whom we know well. In many occasions, among church congregations as well as in church institutions here in Germany, he dah been exerting efforts to raise awareness on the necessity of a just and lasting peace in the Philippines and on the value of the then on-going peace negotiations.  

We empathize with the fear felt by Bishop Calang when he said “The villainization of church people, lawyers, members of the press, and human rights advocates equates to maintaining a ‘hit list.’ This list is virtually ‘up for grabs’ to President Duterte's announced liquidation squads or enterprising police and military men who plan to want to gain reward money by claiming that anyone in the list is an NPA (New People’s Army) combatant.”

Bishop Rhee Timbang (Supreme Bishop of the IFI) said with rage, “this serves as green light for the neutralization and termination of all those ridiculously marked and identified by his state security forces and their rogue elements as wrongly as terrorists. This labelling endangers the lives of our clergy and partners; we are aghast because they are simply playing the lives of these innocent persons.”

Meanwhile, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform and the Ecumenical Bishops Conference, of which Bishop Calang is an active member, have thrown immediate and strong support to him and to all those in the red-tag list. They urged the Duterte administration to take necessary actions to ensure their safety.

Through partnership work, we know well that the IFI actively does faithful Christian witness in helping the poor, in assisting victims of natural calamities, in caring for the environment, in promoting peace and justice, and in defending those who are marginalized. It is saddening when reports reach us that they rather suffer from vilification and red-tagging, which is an affront against their reputation and integrity in the local as well as in the international community.

Since the IFI has always been pro-poor, and vocal against injustices and human rights violations, we know that this church has had a long history of being targeted by state security forces who accuse its members of supporting the communist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA). This resulted to the gruesome killing of Bishop Alberto Ramento in 2006 and of the lay member and anti-mining activist Benjamin Bayles in 2010 and the afore-mentioned arrest of Bishop Morales.

With this new case of harassments, and in the light of the President’s recent order to “shoot all suspected rebels and communists”, we are very worried about the safety and security of the leaders of the IFI, including Bishop Calang, as well as of lawyers, and community leaders who are lending their moral authority and expertise to help the poor and defend their rights. 

We, the undersigned concerned churches and church institutions and individuals, stand with and strongly support the call of the IFI on the Philippine authorities to do the following:

For the President to direct the GRP Peace Panel to resume the peace talks and resolve the basic problems of our society that breed out insurgency.

For the Congress to call for a prompt and speedy investigation on these continuing red-tagging and labelling

We also urge German and E.U. authorities to exert its diplomatic influence to check into the said human rights cases and to reassess its support to the Duterte Administration, in the light of its policies that run contrary to internationally binding and agreed-upon basic and fundamental principles of human rights.  

We rest much of our hope in our Christian faith and in the common values of respect of human dignity as we pursue overcoming evil with good, conquering darkness with light (Eph 5:8).”


Amersfoort, Bisschoppelijk Bureau, 5 maart 2019

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