“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

[Matthew 5:9-11, NRSV] 

[1] We, the leadership of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente [IFI], are terribly furious for another incident of red-tagging against our beloved church and our esteemed clergy.

[2] Yesterday morning, Oct 3, 2022, an FB posting circulated by FB account named “NTF-ELCAC Caraga” ridiculously red-tagged the IFI and certain of its ministers, irresponsibly branding the IFI and said clergy as NPA recruiters and terrorists. It uploaded pictures of Bp. Delfin Callao Jr., Revd Antonio Orillos, Revd Jesthony Orillos, Revd Regem Larong. Revd Jelo Dedumo, Revd Hampreel Ovette Madrona and Revd Junimy Madrona all in the IFI Diocese of Cabadbaran and of the seal of IFI’s Obispado Maximo, probably downloaded from diocesan and personal accounts of those named, together with certain pastors and lay of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), and three clergy from the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). It even maliciously equated the ecumenical activity jointly held by these three churches sometime in January this year at Nasipit, Agusan del Norte to promote the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity as activity of terrorism.

[3] Few minutes after this particular posting, another FB account bearing the name of “Joselito Reyes” uploaded the same pictures with same intent and accusations. Surprisingly, these two accounts became inaccessible afterwards as they had purposely served now to sow intrigues and malice, deliberately peddled disinformation and confusion, and unfairly accused ecclesial institutions and their clergy through black propaganda, red scare and public shaming.

[4] We find these postings as deliberate effort and common pattern to vilify and red-tag the IFI. We regard this red-tagging incident as clear handiwork of same people and group most likely associated with the state security sector and government’s agency NTF-ELCAC due to their obvious brazenness and glaring impunity, characteristic of those wielding state power and government influence. The state security sector in the AFP and PNP and the NTF-ELCAC remain hell-bent to propagate their devilish objective against the IFI, together with the UCCP and certain quarters in the RCC, which only strive to be consistent with its prophetic ministry, social witness and pastoral advocacy. These churches have been named earlier as “enemies of the state” and the military and police have been circulating materials and personnel to proliferate this insinuation to the public.

[5] Like the past several situations of red-tagging against the IFI, we likewise condemn yesterday’s incidence in strong terms. The branding is highly malicious and grossly unjust for it simply intends to discredit and malign the IFI and its clergy and lay members in general. It wantonly brings disrepute to IFI’s mission and ministry which it always strive to anchor principally on its faithfulness to the Lord’s gospel, on its obedience to the Lord’s command to serve the poor and hapless members of his family, on its insistence to support and be in solidarity with the struggling sectors in our society in service to their cause and aspirations, and on its steadfast keeping of its faith and history as church steeped in the nationalist and revolutionary tradition of the Filipino people. 

[6] Red-tagging is downright outrageous; it is highly unconstitutional and criminally intentional. It violates democratic processes and transgresses human rights of the individual persons. Red-tagging places at risk the institution and persons and makes them vulnerable to all forms of state repression and attack. Pursuing national renewal and transformation, advocating for human dignity and social reforms, and working for justice, peace and integrity of creation are not criminal acts, much more as acts of terrorism; they are integral part of the core work of church’s mission and ministry, they are basic tasks in the proclamation of the gospel and in the realization of God’s kingdom which the IFI, and for that matter all churches, is called and commissioned to. We cannot understand why the state and its security sector regards these acts as terrorism when the state in fact is called and expected to pursue the same as its own guiding policies?

[7] We, the leadership of the IFI, view this fresh red-tagging incident as greatly alarming because it took place on the day when we remember the brutal killing of Bp. Alberto Ramento, Bishop of Tarlac and former Obispo Maximo, sixteen years ago. He was vilified and red-tagged, tailed and marked for liquidation as long warned by several texts messages he received before he suffered his gruesome death. The timing of the “people and group” responsible for this red-tagging is intentional and deliberate in order to send clear signal of continuing harassment, intimidation and threats against the IFI for the purpose of stifling its ministry, abdicating its mission, and keeping its silence on its advocacy, that evils may prevail to take place in our midst. But we in the IFI, even despite all these vilification and red-tagging incidences, will remain constant with our love to the Lord and his liberating gospel. We shall not waver with our faith and mission. Instead we shall persist in “journeying with Christ, firmly rooted in history, established in the faith, abounding in joy and thanksgiving, for bold witness and courageous service” (Col 2:6-7) as the theme of our 120th IFI Proclamation Anniversary Celebration urges us to do and live-out.

[8] Unsurprisingly, red-tagging has become now the present fashion and common face of harassment, intimidation and threats, and those exercising state power has been resorting it with so much liberty, impunity and abuse. We therefore continue to call for the abolition of NTF-ELCAC, for the thorough investigation of these red-tagging incidences all over the country by Congress, and by international human rights organizations and ecumenical networks. We ask the Supreme Court and its subsidiary courts in the regional and municipal level to become the bastion and refuge for the defence of human rights and rule of law for our people. We ask churches in the Philippines to unite and undertake joint witness and common programs addressing state abuse and church repression, and to initiate legal actions against those responsible for red-tagging in social media, in public space, and in other fora. We ask church members, from the ranks of the clergy and lay, and all people of goodwill, to stand firm on truth, justice and peace and on human dignity which are under assault in times such as ours today.

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows” [Isaiah 1:17]. “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” [Proverbs 21:15]. “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” [Amos 5:24]


Obispo Maximo

4 October 2022