CHURCH people are not immune to the intensified threats and intimidation allegedly committed by state forces, the Promotion of Church People's Response (PCPR) in Northern Mindanao said.
In a statement, the group of church workers said it has noted an increase in attacks against progressive church people, the latest of whom it identified as Deacon Allan Khen Apus of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI).
An active member of the PCPR local chapter, Apus was 'visited' in his home in Bukidnon and confronted by a man named 'Puto' or Mark' who supposedly told Apus to " stop from his human rights involvement since he is being put under surveillance".
In an interview, Apus said the man managed to get his number and bribed him to accept a rice aid and cash, which is supposedly an urban poor project from Malacanang for the Apus family.
"I learned that I was targeted for providing aid to the Moro evacuees in the International Solidarity Mission in Marawi. The man offered to meet with me in restaurants and talk to me, but I refused because I did not know him. I also refused the rice aid and cash because if we accepted it, who knows what might happen," Apus said.
Karapatan, a human rights watchdog, said the "urban poor project from the government" is usually offered from those alleged communist rebels who surrendered".
Reverend Roland Abejo, an IFI priest and chairperson of PCPR-Northern Mindanao said the bribe "is an obvious ploy to force progressive individuals and organizations to surrender".
"Such is a move to further intimidate and silence the church people in advancing the work of the liberation of God’s people. There are many other cases of violations against church workers, such as those being experienced by the lay co-workers of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in the region. Without sparing the church personnel and workers, the series of events underscore the culture of impunity among State forces in committing human rights violations under President Duterte’s Martial Law," Abejo said.
Abejo adds that the crackdown against legitimate people's organizations are no let-up.
The PCPR-Northern Mindanao calls on the government to lift martial law and stop the attacks against church people.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 14, 2018.