Seventy (70) bishops, priests and church leaders and church workers joined the Forum-Expose on the Political Persecution of Church People held at the IFI Conference Center on 23 July 2013.
Sharing testimonies were the Right Reverend Antonio Ablon, Bishop of Pagadian Diocese, and Reverend Terry Revollido, Rector of Aglipay Central Theological Seminary (ACTS) in Dagupan Diocese. Bishop Ablon and Father Revollido were the most recent victims of harassment among IFI clergy.
In July 2013, Bishop Ablon’s quarters at the Cathedral Center of Pagadian Diocese was breached by unidentified men. Police declared the incident as simply a “malicious mischief” to which the bishop should not be seriously alarmed.
Prior to the incident, it was discovered that a military intelligence agent had been conducting surveillance on the activities and whereabouts of Bishop Ablon.
Bishop Ablon has been openly speaking against corporate mining in Zamboanga del Sur and on the increasing number of killings at areas where mining corporations operate.
Armed men have been repeatedly seen within the vicinity of ACTS since January 2013 and unidentified men asking on the activities and whereabouts of Father Revollido. In June 2013 the seminary compound was breached by two unidentified men. A week after, another armed person was sighted near ACTS main gate.
Father Revollido is a prominent social change advocate and human rights defender in Central Luzon. In 2009, Father Revollido sought asylum with the Old Catholic Church in Utrecht after receiving death treats.
The Church’s leadership seriously looks at these series of intrusions as reasons of great alarm for the safety of its two clergy and fears for their lives. In 2006, Bishop Alberto Ramento, Bishop of Tarlac Diocese, was killed by unidentified men who broke into his parish rectory in the wee hours of the morning.
Bishop Ramento was an outspoken critic of the Arroyo government and was part of a group that monitors the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front.
The forum participants noted that killings of political activists continue and not a single human rights case has been resolved in the three years of President Benigno Aquino III in office. Human rights defenders around the country continue to face threats to their safety, while the families of those thousands who were killed and missing still cry out for justice.
Obispo Maximo Ephraim Fajutagana said that the Iglesia Filipina Independiente had lost its hope that President Aquino can stop the ever-worsening human rights situation in the country, and that political killings will only increase and impunity will continue to prevail under his government.
He also noted that the government has no respect for the Churches as political persecution of church people continues among the IFI, United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and United Methodist Church (UMC).
As there is nothing that can be expected from President Aquino in the protection and promotion of human rights, Bishop Ronelio Fabriquer, Ramento Project for Rights Defenders (RPRD) Chairperson, said that everything is therefore left into the hands of church people in resisting the onslaught against our people’s democratic rights.
The Obispo Maximo challenged the forum participants to stay strong in their commitment to asset their rights and dignity as God’s people even in the face of grave danger and certain death.