red-tagging

IFI woman bishop, church leaders red-tagged in Ilocos Norte

Sherwin de Vera
IFI woman bishop, church leaders red-tagged in Ilocos Norte

CHURCH UNDER SIEGE. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishops Vermillion Tagalog of the Diocese of Laoag and Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy of the Diocese of Batac, and members of the clergy condemn at a press conference the recent spate of red-tagging in Ilocos Norte.

Northern Dispatch

Iglesia Filipino Independiente Batac Bishop Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy says the red-tagging persists even after a dialogue with provincial police

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Church workers of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente (IFI) on Friday, June 3, found posters and leaflets bearing the names and faces of their church leaders, including their first female bishop, scattered in front of the cathedral in Laoag City and the church in Banna town, both in Ilocos Norte. 

The new red-tagging attack followed the June 2 dialogue between IFI leaders and priests in the Diocese of Batac and Ilocos Norte police chief Colonel Julius Suriben. The clerics sought a meeting on the same day they discovered identical tarpaulins and flyers at the IFI convent in Batac City and the Ilocos People’s Center in Vigan City. 

The printed products came with a warning – “Mag-ingat sa taong ito. NPA recruiter!” (Beware, this person is an NPA recruiter!) The materials, signed by an anonymous group calling itself  Tagapagtanggol ng Bayan Laban sa Terorismo, also urged them to clear their names with the police. 

Those featured in the poster were Diocese of Batac Bishop Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy, her husband Reverend Noel Dacuycuy, and reverends Arvin Mangrubang and Randy Manicap of the adjacent Diocese of Laoag. The Batac church is the seat of the diocesan prelate and Banna, where the bishop pastorally resides. 

Red-tagging is the practice of associating legal groups and individuals with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army – which the Philippine government has designated as terrorist organizations – to vilify them and discredit their causes. 

The posters and flyers also red-tagged Kabataan 2nd nominee Angelica Galimba and Florence Kang of the Ilocos Center for Research, Empowerment and Development and Solidarity of Peasant Against Exploitation leaders Antonino Pugyao, Zaldy Alfiler, and Edward Kuan.

Tagged by association 

In a statement posted on Facebook, Gasco-Cacuycuy condemned and denied the allegations. She said that in their June 2 meeting, the provincial police chief had “assured our security.”  

“On behalf of my church and the Diocese, we are very ready to call a dialogue with the government agencies, especially the military officials assigned in our area.,” the bishop said. 

“We are not NPA recruiters! We are bishops and priests working and praying for the abundance of life,” Gasco-Dacuycuy added. 

SERVICE TO THE POOR. Then Reverend Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy, now the first woman bishop of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente (IFI), reads the IFI Human Rights Day statement during the 2019 commemoration held in Vigan City.

In an interview on June 3, the bishop said she believed the incident is related to the recent youth event the IFI organized. 

“The [recent spate of] red-tagging started during the summer youth camp last May 18 to 21,” she said. 

Gasco-Dacuycuy said they invited Kabataan nominee Galimba to “give a 30-minute post-election reflection” during the activity. That “might have sparked the ire of the state forces,” she added. 

The Duterte administration has repeatedly accused Kabataan of recruiting for the NPA. The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict even filed a disqualification case against the party-list group, which is pending before the Commission on Elections. 

Despite non-stop attacks, Kabataan again won a seat in the House of Representatives in the May 9 elections. 

Not the first time 

The Dacuycuy couple and the two clerics are no strangers to harassment and accusations of having communist links. 

The bishop and her husband spent time in jail in 2001, when cops implicated them in the killings of Cordillera People’s Liberation Army chieftain Conrado Balweg and 12 other peasant leaders and development workers in Ilocos. The court dismissed the case against them. 

In an online interview on June 3, Manrubang said that he discovered a sack with words accusing him of being an NPA supporter hanging outside his church on May 8. He also said that a former acquaintance serving as a police informer told him two months before the elections to surrender and clear his name for allegedly supporting the rebels.

Manrubang and Manicap received death threats in June 2018 and have reported to their superiors cases of harassment and surveillance by suspected military agents since 2017. 

In February 2019, unknown men also tailed Manicap, then the Social Action Center head of the Diocese of Laoag, from his post in Piddig town to Laoag City. 

Manicap is also a convenor of the People’s Solidarity Against Large Scale Mining in Ilocos Norte, while Manrubang works closely with farmers’ groups in the province. 

Gasco-Dacuycuy served as the secretary-general of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) before accepting a church assignment in 2003. She continued her human rights work while tending to her duties. he became the first IFI woman bishop in 2019.  – Rappler.com