The auxiliary bishop of the Philippine capital has denounced the inclusion of at least 50 organizations, including several church groups, in the government’s list of alleged “communist front organizations.”
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said it is “inherent” to church groups to provide help to everyone who is in need regardless of political or religious belief.
The prelate, who heads the Commission on the Laity of the bishops’ conference, said religious institutions and aid providers do not ask disaster victims if he or she is a communist.
In the southern Philippines, Balay Mindanaw, a private foundation, called on civil society groups to be vigilant following a visit by armed policemen to the foundation’s office on Nov. 13.
In a statement, the group said the incident was a “learning experience” even as it called on law enforcers “to be mindful and true to their duty … in respecting the rights of every citizen.”
Charlito Manlupig, the foundation’s head, said policemen and bomb-sniffing dogs entered the Balay Mindanaw office in Cagayan de Oro City, without a court warrant.
He claimed that the officers searched the office and the belongings of guests who were attending a seminar workshop in the facility.
“It traumatized all of our staff and volunteers,” said Manlupig.
The police have since apologized for the incident, claiming that it regrets the “unfortunate wrongdoing of the involved police officers.”
“While we tend to believe and accept the police’s explanation, we are also duty-bound to take appropriate action,” said Manlupig.
The foundation, which focused on humanitarian and peace development in conflict areas in Mindanao, was holding a training for youth leaders who will conduct psychosocial interventions in the war-torn city of Marawi when the incident happened.
In Manila, Bishop Pabillo said state agents cannot just tag these institutions because these groups have “self-less workers and admirable activities.”
He said that to accuse a whole institution in public without evidence “is the height of malice.”
On Nov. 5, the Philippine military presented a list before the House of Representatives of groups supposedly have links with the underground communist movement.
Among those listed are the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the Diocesan Social Action Center of Kalibo, the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center, and the international aid agency Oxfam.
Also included are Caritas Australia, Caritas Austria, Caritas Belgium, Caritas Switzerland, Save the Children Foundation, Bread for the World, the Swedish Red Cross, Mercy Relief, and several other groups that allegedly “wittingly or unwittingly” provide funds to the communists.
Mark Saludes contributed to this report.