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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) on Monday, April 11, cried foul over the arrest of a church volunteer worker in Cagayan de Oro who authorities linked to the communist insurgency.
The police and military arrested Aldeem Yañez at his house in Barangay Iponan, Cagayan de Oro, on Sunday, April 10, and alleged that they seized from him a gun, explosives, and subversive documents.
But IFI leaders protested the arrest, saying it was part of a continuing red-tagging of government critics and church workers sent to do volunteer work in communities.
Yañez has served as a volunteer at the IFI’s Visayas-Mindanao Regional Office for Development (VIMROD), and the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, a network that has been advocating the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
IFI Supreme Bishop Rhee Timbang called for Yañez’s immediate release, pointing out that it was not the first time for the church worker to be falsely accused. Timbang described Yañez as an IFI member of good standing.
IFI leaders said Yañez’s arrest was an affront to the church and was another attempt to link them to the decades-old communist armed rebellion.
“His arrest resembles the established pattern in apprehending church people active in their social advocacy and followed after being red-tagged,” Timbang said.
Yañez is currently detained at the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group office in Camp Evangelista, awaiting a court inquest.
Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Olaivar, Northern Mindanao police spokesperson, said those who arrested Yañez found a caliber .45 pistol, grenades, and subversive documents when they searched his house at Urban Poor Village in Barangay Iponan.
Olaivar said the search was made based on an April 6 warrant issued by Judge Arthur Abundiente of the Regional Trial Court Branch 25 in Cagayan de Oro.
She said police were preparing a criminal case against Yañez for violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, a bailable offense.
In 2018, Yañez was arrested in General Santos City on suspicion that he and a dozen other human rights activists were communist rebels. They were freed after a court threw out the cases for frustrated murder and murder filed against them.
Yañez and 17 other activists were arrested again in Sibagat town, Agusan del Sur, in 2020. They were among the 555 people linked to a New People’s Army attack on a militia patrol base in Sibagat town on December 19, 2018.
Judge Fernando Fudalan of the RTC in Bayugan City subsequently quashed the arrest warrants against Yañez and other activists.
The Reverend Christopher Ablon, the IFI national program coordinator, said an indignation rally and noise barrage will be staged at the IFI Cathedral along Taft Avenue in Manila every day in protest of the red-tagging and Yañez’s arrest. – Rappler.com
Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship