Church leaders decry red-tagging of ministers, spate of attacks against social justice advocates

Leaders of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) condemned the red-tagging in Ilocos Norte of the church’s first woman bishop and three priests.

Officers of the Church’s national councils and mandated organizations issued a jointly signed statement on June 11 decrying the vilification of Bishop Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy and husband Rev. Noel Dacuycuy of the Diocese of Batac; and Reverends Arvin Mangrubang and Randy Manicap of the Diocese of Laoag. 

“We … express alarm and rage learning of the harassment of our bishop and three priests of the [IFI],” noted the signatories from the Supreme Council of Bishops (SCB), Council of Priests (COP), National Lay Council (NLC), Youth of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (YIFI), Women of the Philippine Independent Church (WOPIC), Laymen of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (LIFI) and National Priests Organization (NPO).

On June 2 and 3, streamers and posters were hung at several places in the cities of Batac and Laoag, as well as the municipality of Banna, in Ilocos Norte baselessly branding the four ministers as recruiters of the New People’s Army or the NPA, the military wing of the communist movement in the country.

The statement denounced the incident, saying it aimed to defame and discredit faith-based human rights defenders and peace advocates who have used their “prophetic voices against the evils in society and for the welfare of the Filipino people.”

The group expressed fear that the malicious accusations would turn the four leaders “legitimate targets of the government’s counter-insurgency operations.”

The document also recalled how the military openly identified the IFI as an “enemy of the state” and a “communist front” in the past, making many church members and leaders insecure and fearful for their lives. 

“Not long ago, the Armed Forces Philippines and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict categorically classified the IFI as an ‘enemy of the State’ and a ‘communist front.’ We have strong basis to believe that the two masterminded this recent attack in Ilocos Norte,” it said. 

Signatories scored the attacks, whose targets have gone beyond the church: “Only a despotic regime would peddle disinformation against honest-to-goodness justice work; and condone, even command, efforts to trample on values of human dignity, just peace, the common good and democracy.”

“We enjoin people of faith to speak up against the spread of falsehood, which has victimized servants of the Lord and other good, compassionate people, and to reaffirm their patriotic duty to defend our democratic rights and liberties,” said the statement. 

It asked Congress to criminalize red-tagging as a preventative measure. It also reminded IFI members, Filipinos and concerned individuals to make the outgoing administration “answerable for its wrongdoings” and the incoming one to end attacks against advocates of social justice.

The statement was signed by SCB chairperson Bishop Joselito Cruz, NLC chairperson Donald Quio and Rev. Dacuycuy as chairperson of the COP.

Also affixing their signatures were the national heads of the mandated lay organizations, Carlo Acierto (YIFI), Dr. Menchu Millamena (WOPIC), and Edgar Lingcodo (LIFI); the chairperson of the NPO, Rev. Jonash Joyohoy.

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