SOLIDARITY STATEMENT OF THE OBISPO MAXIMO

On the Vilification and Red-tagging of Fr. Raymond Ambray, RCC Priest, Diocese of Tandag

Upon seeing the post on Sunday evening, May 10, 2020, that vilified Fr. Raymond Ambray of the Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Tandag, we texted him immediately to express our concern with these words: “Am greatly alarmed with what you posted! Please take extra-care; don’t let your guard down. It obviously is the handiwork of the military and the pseudo-lumad leaders it cuddle!” This expression of concern is built upon so many instances that IFI bishops and clergy in Mindanao were vilified, and the common denominator was their involvement with the IFI’s Mindanao Lumad Ministry.

Today, we express our support to his personal statement issued on May 11, 2020 condemning the spread of his picture maligning and red-tagging him, and pointing to the military elements of the 36th and the 401st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the paramilitary groups that they managed as the possible culprit. These said AFP units are involved in the continuing military operations in the lumad areas at Surigao del Sur which factored the killings of lumad leaders and the series of mass evacuations of lumad communities. Both the International Fact Finding Mission held in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and the Senate Hearing conducted at Tandag City in 2015 identified these units as parties involved in the Han-ayan Massacre with the collusion of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary forces. Three of the perpetrators were already issued warrant of arrests but until now they remain scot-free despite being seen publicly together with military elements.

Fr. Raymond Ambray opted to exercise his apostolacy with the lumad people, and so do with our bishops and clergy in the IFI, in faithful obedience to the word of our Lord Jesus mandating us to serve the least of his brothers and sisters like the lumad people. Only those who oppose God’s incarnate word will see the apostolacy and ministry with the lumad as sowing evil. Ever since “sowing evil” has been the line of the military in order to discredit and malign churches and church people serving the lumad. Ever since too, the military has been rabidly serving to secure the interest and protect the operations of the plunderous large-scale mining companies and large plantations present in Mindanao, driving the lumads away from their ancestral lands that multi-national corporations and big national investors are salivating to exploit, and sowing intrigues between and among lumad leaders to disunite lumad communities and make it appear that the lumad problem is simply a tribal war.

We extend our solidarity with the Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Tandag in safeguarding the security and well-being of Fr. Raymond Ambray, and of so many IFI bishops and clergy, targeted for vilification and red-tagging intended to cow the church and clergy to fear and to silence, and to abdicate their ministry to the lumad and the mission of Christ.

++ RHEE

Obispo Maximo

Convenor, Friends of the Lumad Caraga

May 12, 2020

Manila, Philippines

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