The Promotion of Church People’s Response issued a statement on Monday, April 11, denouncing the arrest of Aldeem Yañez of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in an early morning raid on April 10.
“The [PCPR] denounces an established pattern by state forces to conduct search or arrest operations in the dead of night,” read the statement.
The group said “blatant fabrication of evidence and pro forma testimonies by arresting officers are an affront to truth and common decency.”
Yañez was reportedly arrested in his home in Cagayan de Oro City in the southern Philippines.
The PCPR said the arresting officers were reported to have “planted” firearms and munitions during the raid, adding that Aldeem’s lawyers, family, and church colleagues were still for additional information on the incident.
“We call for the immediate release of Aldeem Yañez,” read the group’s statement.
“When Church people are involved in activism, this is an expression of their mission and service with the poor, oppressed, and marginalized,” it added.
In December, a regional court in Agusan del Sur province dismissed kidnapping and robbery charges against Yañez and 16 other rights activists and peace advocates filed in 2019.
Judge Fernando Fudalan Jr. of the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Bayugan City quashed the warrants of arrest issued against the 17 for being null and void, citing the inadequate affidavits filed by the complainants composed of two soldiers and 12 militiamen.
The accused – Teresita Naul, Aldeem Yañez, Ireneo Udarbe, Francisco Pagayaman, Ophelia Tabacon, Jumorito Guaynon, Jerry and Gerald Basahon, Aida Ibrahim, Mylene Coleta, Hanilyn Cepedes, Ritchel Hilogon, Cecilia Acenas, Wildon Barros, Reywynx Morgado, Mujahid Caballero, and Vicente Libona – were charged with destructive arson, kidnapping, robbery with violence or intimidation.
The military filed the cases against the NGO workers after New People’s Army rebels raided a paramilitary camp in Barangay Tubigon, Sibagat town in Agusan del Sur, on February 19, 2019.
Two soldiers and 12 militiamen were taken hostage by the rebels but were released unharmed later.