Bishops call for investigation into arrest of church worker with red tag in Cagayan de Oro

The Ecumenical Bishops Forum denounces the arrest of church worker and activist Aldeem Yañez even as it calls for thorough and impartial investigations into what religious leaders say is a gross violation of civil liberties

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – A group of bishops from different Christian churches on Monday (April 18) called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to open separate investigations into the arrest from Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) lay worker and activist Aldeem Yañez in Cagayan de Oro a week ago.

Authorities arrested Yañez at his home in Barangay Iponan on April 10 on suspicion of having ties to the New People’s Army (NPA), a charge the IFI and those close to him have said are false.

IFI-Cagayan de Oro Bishop Felixberto Calang said the church worker and activist was taken to Barangay Lumbia city jail to be detained after being charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The charges were fabricated, IFI leaders and Yañez’s family claimed.

The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) has denounced Yañez’s arrest while calling on the HRC and DOJ to launch credible, thorough, and impartial investigations into what church leaders have called a gross violation of civil liberties. .

“We call for the immediate release of Aldeem Yanez,” the joint statement read.

The joint statement was signed by United Methodist Bishop Ciriaco Francisco and the Most Reverend Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy of IFI, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Bishop Joel Tendero, Catholic Bishop Emeritus of Caloocan Deogracias Iniguez Jr., and the Very Reverend Dindo Ranojo. of the IFI.

The bishops blamed Yañez’s arrest on the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and called for its abolition.

Bishop Calang said Yañez was transferred to the city jail after a judicial investigation.

“The family, as well as church leaders who know Aldeem (Yañez) best, argue that this case is made up, and we expect Aldeem to be free after some time,” Calang said. .

EBF described Yañez as a dedicated lay IFI worker who volunteered at the Philippine Ecumenical Platform for Peace.

His older brother, Bishop Redeemer Yañez of the IFI Diocese of Libertad, Misamis Oriental, alleged that agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) fabricated evidence against his brother.

Police said they seized a .45 caliber pistol and grenades during the search of Yañez’s home in Urban Poor Village in Barangay Iponan.

Bishop Yañez said the gun and grenades were in bags detailed in the search warrant.

“Based on the search warrant, they knew what the bags looked like, but my brother had never seen any,” Bishop Yañez said.

He said young Yañez was an activist and a critic of some of the government policies that used his music as a platform.

“He’s never used guns. What he has is his guitar. He’s a church worker who didn’t believe in violence. Violence goes against his religious beliefs. Those who know him can tell that it is not in his character to resort to firearms,” the Bishop said.

It was not the first time the church worker had been arrested and charged. In 2018 he was charged along with several hundred others in connection with an NPA attack on a militia outpost in Agusan del Sur, but the court dismissed the case.

“Aldeem’s arrest by state security forces is a despicable act by a government that thrives on tyrannical opportunism to silence government critics and legitimate political dissent,” it read. in the EBF statement.

The bishops’ group said Yañez’s capture was “another in a long list of arrests of a similar nature and circumstances.”

The group called the arrest a work of NTF-ELCAC that “exacerbates and embodies the tyranny of the Duterte administration and its continued disregard for human rights.”

He added, “Anyone and any advocacy that is not in line with Duterte’s anti-grassroots and anti-democratic policies is red-labeled as an ‘enemy of the state’…Such a desperate and brazen decision to terrorize the populates even in the twilight months. of this culpable government will not deter or intimidate the people, but will only embolden our resolve to fight for justice and human rights and to end impunity. –

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