CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/07 August) – A leader of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, a prominent human rights lawyer and several journalists have sought the protection of the city government after being subjected to relentless red-tagging by unknown groups.
IFI Bishop Felixberto Calang said the red-tagging of leaders of their church had resulted in dwindling attendance during masses.
“Our members are shying away from going to our churches for fear they may be red-tagged too,” Calang said.
Calang together with human rights lawyer Beverly Musni and Pam Sairo and JB Deveza of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines sought protection from City Mayor Oscar Moreno and the City Council on Tuesday.
“It is becoming hard to do our duties because we are too concerned about our safety,” Calang told Moreno.
Calang said they found tarps and graffiti on their church walls and other public places denouncing the IFI as a front of the New People’s Army and Communist Party of the Philippines.
He and five other bishops of the IFI are the ones targeted by the red-tagging.
The bishop said he resorted to changing his schedules as security precaution. Other IFI bishops also have their own security plans.
“I am forced to look behind my shoulder to see if I was tailed or not,” he said.
Musni of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said being tagged as communist sympathizers is already a death warrant.
She cited the case of Benjamin Ramos, a founding member of NUPL, who was murdered in Kabankalan, Negros Oriental last year.
“We do not want any lawyer to be killed in Cagayan de Oro. This is the reason why we sought the protection from the local authorities. We are constituents here and it is their duty to protect us,” she said.
Musni and her daughter, Czarina, another NUPL lawyer, have been targets of red-tagging.
Sairo of Sunstar Cagayan de Oro said her parents wept upon learning she was red-tagged and asked her to leave her job for her own safety.
“It’s really difficult to reconcile with the concerns of your family and your desire to write,” Sairo said.
Deveza said aside from Sairo, three other local journalists namely Cong Corrales, editor of Mindanao Gold Star Daily; Joey Nacalaban, also of Mindanao Gold Star Daily; and Jigger Jerusalem of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, were also red-tagged.
Moreno promised he would ask the 4th Infantry Division about this matter.
Councilor Edgar Cabanlas said he would spearhead an investigation to look into these serious threats against the religious, journalists and lawyers. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)