IFI Supreme Bishop: Church worker’s arrest ‘grave abuse’ of police-military power

Church and family say Aldeem Yañez is an exemplary church worker and Christian activist, not a terrorist

A church group as well as the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) denounced the arrest of church and development worker Aldeem Yañez at three o’clock in the morning of April 10, Palm Sunday, saying the charges against him are “blatant fabrication.”

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) said it denounces the early morning raid that is part of an “established pattern by state forces to conduct search or arrest operations in the dead of night.”

“Blatant fabrication of evidence and pro forma testimonies by arresting officers are an affront to truth and common decency,” the PCPR added.

Supreme Bishop Rhee Timbang himself spoke in behalf of the IFI in demanding Yañez’s release, saying the arrest was illegal and the charge of illegal possession of firearms against him are trumped up.

“We demand for the release of Aldeem Yañez and for the dropping of all trumped-up charges against him. We oppose illegal arrest and detention, and call for the stop of red-tagging! We shout to stop church persecution! We call for the resumption of peace talks!” Bishop Timbang said in a statement.

An activist and a repeated victim of red-tagging, Yañez is accused by the police and military to be a member of the New People’s Army.

Sunday’s arrest last Sunday is Yañez’s second. He was among 13 church workers arrested in General Santos City in July 2018.

Bishop Timbang however denied police and military allegations their church worker is a member of the NPA, adding Yañez is an IFI member in good standing.

He said Yañez is “active and committed in his participation to the life and work of the Church as being a consistent church youth leader in the parish, diocesan, regional [Mindanao], and national level.”

The prelate said Yañez was at one time the National Youth President of the IFI.

“As expression of his ministry, he served as volunteer staff of Visayas-Mindanao Regional Office for Development, a development program of the IFI, and of Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform [PEPP], a network of peace advocates in the country, seeking for the resumption of peace talks between the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) to resolve basic social problems in our land,” Bishop Timbang added.

“We in the IFI leadership decry this grave abuse of police and military power and the cooptation of the civil courts. We root this in the tyrannical rule of the present dispensation which has no regard and respect of the law, human rights, social justice and human dignity,” he said.

Bishop Timbang said Yañez is a musician and songwriter of many church songs used popularly within and outside the IFI.

Family of church workers

Yañez is a brother to an IFI Bishop and a Priest.

In an appeal, Fr. June Mark Yañez said his brother could not have kept guns inside their Cagayan de Oro home where Aldeem was taking care of their elderly parents.

“Who in their right minds would be keeping firearms and explosives in such a situation? Besides, Aldeem has no record of being a gun smuggler or drug dealer that would force him to keep such weapons where his beloved parents are,” Fr. Yañez asked.

The Priest said their brother is an exemplary servant of the Church and the Filipino people.

“He may not have become a priest like me or a bishop like our other brother, but we could not compare to his dedication to serve the Church. The guitar is his favorite instrument in spreading the good news. It is also his weapon of resistance as an activist, not guns and bullets that were planted as evidence against him by the shameless and desperate state agents who arrested him,” Fr. Yañez said.

Bishop Redeemer Yañez for his part said their brother Aldeem is an activist “if the word is to be defined as a person who sees the misery of his people, who hears the cry of the poor, who is concerned about their sufferings, and journey with them in the path of emancipation.”

Bishop Yañez said that their brother’s concern for the poor is rooted on his deep faith that was nurtured by their family, his nationalist church, and by his long involvement in the ecumenical and developmental works.

Aside from being a former national youth president of the IFI, Aldeem was also a former vice chairperson of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

“He is a Christian activist. He is not a terrorist,” Bishop Yañez said.

Their mother Kathleen said she was hard-broken to see her youngest son in handcuffs and sleeping on the cold concrete floor of Camp Evangelsta in Patag, Cagayan de Oro City.

But she added that her spirit is lifted with the outpouring of support of the IFI and the many organizations and individuals who know the real Aldeem.

“I am happy to know there are so many who love my most kind son. This child of mine is spending his whole life serving the church and the poor. The only time he is away is the time he is with the poorest who are driven away from their homes and are victims of injustices,” she said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)