Cagayan de Oro City—A bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente has cried foul after their chapel was vandalized by unknown suspects in an apparent case of “red-tagging.”
IFI Bishop Antonio Ablon said that Reverend Felix Espra, Jr., IFI parish priest of Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur, reported malicious markings painted the fence of their chapel on Sept. 30 that said: “IFI=NPA.”
NPA commonly stands for the communist New People’s Army. The chapel is in Gitub, Lakewood town.
“The markings on the wall of the chapel, which lies along the national highway leading to Zamboanga City, is visible to all passersby,” Ablon said.
Ablon said that Espra, Jr received a text message of Sept. 28, 2018 informing him of the incident.
Ablon said that the incident was reported to barangay officials to the police.
The bishop said other markings can be found in three different locations in Zamboanga del Sur.
“Three areas were vandalized. One is the IFI chapel in Gitub, Lakewood, the other one is a slope protection concrete wall in Barangay Lacupayan, Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur, and [the third] one along the boundary of Gatub and Kumalarang in Zamboanga del Sur,” Ablon said.
The marking in these locations equate various groups to the NPA, such as Bayan Muna, the Communist Party of the Philippines, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the League of Philippine Students, and other organizations.
Bishop Ablon said he was singled out in the markings because he led a fact-finding mission on alleged aerial bombings in Barangay Saad, Duminorog, Zamboanga del Sur last May.
“The area is a highly militarized lumad community,” he said.
In a Pastoral Statement, The Most Reverend Rhee M. Timbang, Obispo Maximo, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, said the incident is a “very disgusting if not revolting” report about the labelling and tagging of the IFI and its clergy, specifically, Bishop Ablon, as NPAs.
“This incidence is highly alarming considering that these tagging and labelling do not only grossly malign and vilify the IFI and its ministry, they likewise irresponsibly place the life and security of Bishop Antonio Ablon and other IFI bishops and clergy in danger,” Timbang said.
“Red-tagging and labelling serve to harass, intimidate and threat persons who are considered as enemies of the state, but worst these serve as license for their liquidation or neutralization, to borrow military terms, as state security officers (or the organized rogue military/police elements under their command) are given the open permission to shoot and kill those whom listed in their order of battle,” Timbang added.