Several church groups in the Philippine decried the arrest on Sunday, May 2, a Protestant pastor in the province of Albay, south of the capital Manila.
Police arrested Pastor Daniel Balucio of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) over alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Authorities entered the Shannan Christian Academy in Sto. Domingo town, Albay province, in the early morning of Sunday to serve a search warrant against the 61-year-old pastor.
Authorities reported that they have recovered from the pastor a Remington .45 caliber pistol, seven bullets, two M-14 rifle magazines, a hand grenade, and a communist flag.
Balucio is coordinator of his church’s ecumenical disaster response and management committee and regional spokesperson of the activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.
Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente said early morning raids have become “a common strategy used by state security forces” against activists.
The prelate said the “planting” of evidence has also become a pattern in police raids against personalities “labeled as enemies of the state, vilified, and red-tagged.”
Bishop Timbang called on the Supreme Court and the Justice department “to urgently act” on the “use of the courts to harass human rights defenders and activists.”
The Promotion of Church People’s Response called for the immediate release of Balucio.
The group said the arrest was illegal because of the “fraudulent modus operandi of planting evidence.”
“Fabricating and planting of evidence must not be tolerated,” said the group in a statement.
The UCCP Council of Bishops appealed for prayers and support for Balucio who they said is a victim of the state forces’ “common evil exercise” of planting evidence.
The Protestant bishops said the pastor was targeted by the government because of his mandate to “side and journey with the poor and the downtrodden.”
“[The UCCP] condemns those in authority who cause people’s misery especially when their God-endowed rights are violated in the guise of peace and order,” read the statement.