Iglesia Filipina Independiente
1500 Taft Avenue, Ermita, Manila, Philippines
STOP ATTACKING OUR BISHOPS, STOP PERSECUTING THE CHURCH
Filipina Independiente's Statement on
the Harassment of Bishop Antonio Ablon of Pagadian Diocese
"Do not touch my chosen people, and do not hurt my prophets."
(Psalm 105:15, NLV)
Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) is gravely concerned and alarmed following
the break-in at the office and residence of Bishop Antonio N. Ablon, Bishop of
Pagadian Diocese, at the Pro-Cathedral of Tubod on October 7, 2015. This was not the first time that Bishop Ablon became a target of
ransacking and threats as alleged military operatives broke into the Bishop’s
House at Pagadian Cathedral in 2013.
The CPU of the
bishop’s computer was missing and in its place was found a small piece of paper
with the phrases “Pagbantay2x ha!” and
“Andam2x Ha!” which means “Be
watchful! Be ready!” There were no other valuable items taken from the place. Days
before the ransacking, some men came looking for Bishop Ablon but fled away
when asked who they were.
see this recent incident as a form of harassment aimed to intimidate Bishop
Ablon, and to instill fear among the clergy and the faithful of Pagadian
Diocese. We suspect that this is deliberately undertaken by state agents to
deter our bishop from his involvement with people’s organizations taking a
critical stance against the role of the military in the war in Mindanao. Bishop
Ablon, who is presently the Chairperson
of the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights – KARAPATAN Western
Mindanao, is an outspoken critic of the ongoing heavy militarization of peasants’
and indigenous peoples’ communities and the atrocities committed by the military
through its counter-insurgency operation scheme Oplan Bayanihan.
Bishop Ablon is a staunched
human rights, peace and environmental advocate. He was part of the Fact Finding
Missions (FFM) to Zamboanga del Sur that investigated the large-scale mining operations
in Midsalip and Bayog in 2013. In 2014, he actively led his diocese in the
People’s Initiative against the Pork Barrel campaign against corruption and
plunder in the government. He is also the Head Convenor of the Patriotiko
Mindanao which opposes US military presence in the country and Mindanao region,
and calling for the abolition of military agreements between the Philippines
and the USA.
We become more fearful for Bishop Ablon’s
safety after this housebreaking incident. In 2006, Bishop Alberto Ramento was
found dead from stab wounds inside his room in San Sebastian Parish in Tarlac
Diocese. Bishop Ramento was also actively engaged with people’s organizations,
an outspoken critic of the government and an advocate of peasants’ struggle in
Hacienda Luisita. Prior to his murder, there were two recorded incidents of
housebreaking at his Church while he was away. The third time it happened, the
bishop was sleeping in his room. We, then, lost Bishop Ramento.
Being the Secretary of the Supreme Council of
Bishops (SCB), Bishop Ablon represents the voice of the Iglesia Filipina
Independiente. He is known to us as a fiery prophet who cannot hold his peace
when he sees that the people’s interest is compromised in one way or
another. He is a bishop whose moral
integrity is beyond reproach and whose deep compassion for the poor, deprived
and oppressed is known far and wide.
We, therefore, strongly denounce this attack against Bishop Antonio Ablon. We can only ask ourselves why Bishop Ablon is
now being put under harassment and intimidation. Is it a crime to work for the
common good, promote the well-being of people created in the image of God, and protect
the integrity of creation? It is clear to
us that the recent incident is part of the elaborate effort of the state to silence
opposition and people who are critical of the present dispensation.
support to Bishop Ablon as we pray for him that they may never waiver from his commitment
to work for just peace and to serve our people. May his commitment to the
message of the Gospel of Christ continue to be the source of his joy as he endures
trial and persecution. Let his courage inspires us as he lifts high the torch
of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and confronts the darkness that seeks to engulf
Mindanao and our entire nation.
Let us, finding encouragement from the words of
the Scriptures; “Stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.” (1 Corinthians
16.13), continue to pursue the historic mission of the Iglesia
Filipina Independiente in serving the poor, deprived and oppressed.
† Most Revd Ephraim S. Fajutagana