Dear friends,

We are sharing with you a statement from Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) regarding the recent red-tagging campaign against IFI clergy and its partners. Please circulate widely among your respective networks.

Karapatan Public Information Desk


Iglesia Filipina Independiente

While undertaking the Pastoral Visit to our churches in Masbate, somebody called our attention on and furnished us a copy of the flyers now circulating in Cagayan de Oro City and Northern Mindanao since February 22, 2019 maliciously and irresponsibly red-tagging our clergy in the persons of Fr. Rolando Abejo, Fr. Khen Apus, Fr. Chris Ablon, Bp. Antonio Ablon and Bp. Felixberto Calang including some prominent partners of the IFI in its work like the persons of Benjie Sambaan, Cong Corrales, Ofelia Tabacon, Atty Beverly Musni, Atty Czarina Musni, and Atty Beverly Ann Musni! We again cry foul to these baseless accusations and condemn in the most strongest term these continuing attacks of our clergy and of the IFI itself and of people and organizations like the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, and the National Union of People’s Lawyers, which are partners in the IFI’s work of prophetic witness, social advocacy and solidarity and engagement with the peasants, fisherfolks, workers, urban poor, lumad communities and Moro people in consonance to its mission and fidelity to its history enriched by the bold, courageous and fearless witnesses of Apo Aglipay and Don Belong and other heroes of the Filipino church in the nationalist and revolutionary tradition of the Filipino people! We are extremely outrage with this cowardice act which we surmised to have been, as in the past, espoused and perpetrated by state security forces of this land blessed by President Duterte himself who without qualm always publicly encouraged the culture of impunity, direct military and police to kill and kill, and label every one who criticizes his ill-governance as terrorists!

The IFI and its clergy and partners in the legal and professional organizations are now in the brunt of his war against terrorism because his hubris blinded him to see who are the real enemies of the state. The enemies are not the churches and their progressive units, neither the legal and professional entities and organizations which together with the nationalist churches in the Philippines are working and advocating for the betterment of the lives of our deprived, exploited, abused and destituted people who unfortunately comprised the majority of the Filipinos! The real enemies of the state are just within the circles of the president in the likes of Ano, Lorenzana and Esperon and their minions of hawk generals who do not want President Duterte to succeed in his tenure by being faithful to his campaign promises and be the people’s president that he claimed and projected himself to be! They are the real enemies of the state who try to delude the president that the 50 year old insurgency problem can be solved by militarist approach within his term. The real enemies are them who want to make more money with the anti-insurgency campaign of the Duterte government. We have just to look at the manner how they staged fake surrenderees all over the country, apprehended peace advocates and bestowed them with stupid ranks and titles to implicate them with the NPA’s, and transmortified our military to become monsters against our people instead of being servants and protectors! They are the same people who railroaded Duterte’s goverment peace efforts.

We ask President Duterte to direct his hubris to them, curse them to the end until they thaw in ignominy. Why don’t he show instead his bragadoccio to the Chinese incursionist of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity, to the US goverment for its interventionist policy in the Philippines in order to kowtow us in their business interests and make income of the sale of their war materiel!

We want President Duterte to know that we are furious with this red-tagging and communist scare because it 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. We are angry because labelling endanger the lives of our clergy and partners; we are aghast because they are simply playing the lives of these innocent persons.

We ask President Duterte to make history by standing for his people, by directing the GRP Peace Panel to resume the peace talks and resolve the basic problems of our society that breeded out insurgency.

We ask the Congress to call for a prompt and speedy investigation on these continuing red-tagging and labelling, make the military account for its excesses in the name of the war against terrorism, suspend the DND budget in the exercise of Congress oversight on public funds, and call the US Congress to withold the support of their state funds used by the Philippine government and its military to trample people’s rights of the peasants, fisherfolks, workers, urban poor, lumad communities and Moro people.

We call on the Filipino public and people of goodwill to be worried and concerned with the deteriorating situation of human rights and widespread poverty and injustice! It does not follow that since we are individually safe and enjoying relative convenience, all are safe and conveniently benefit the laws of the land. The laws and state forces are used to disadvantage the many among us and it takes only the public silence and indifference for the real enemies of the state to prosper their evil intent!

We ask the IFI faithful – lay and clergy alike – to be vigilant on the national situation and be militant on advocating issues that affect our national life. We need to be persistent in our prophetic witness, social advocacy and solidarity and engagement with our mission and ministry to people marginalized by its own government as demonstration of our clear and matured faith in the Lord Jesus and of our fidelity and adherence to our historical heritage as a nationalist and revolutionary church. We have to continue our courageous journey towards faithful witness as fired up by the Holy Spirit to concretize our theme-prayer for the triennium: God, by your grace, renew your church for faithful witness.

May we continue to persist and persevere in the Lord Jesus and his church, overcoming evil with good, conquering darkness with light, for we now are light in the Lord, and let us walk as children of light (Eph 5:8).

+ Rhee Timbang
Obispo Maximo
February 23, 2019

Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.