Police set to file case vs two Church leaders

Posted on April 24, 2015

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Northern Mindanao are poised to file child abuse charges against two clerics of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) who are keeping five minors suspected to be members of a communist group.

New People’s Army rebels during its anniversary -- AFP
Supt. Gervacio Balmaceda, Jr., PNP Region 10 spokesperson, said in an e-mail that IFI’s Bishop Raul Amoricillo and parish priest Rolando Abejo could face cases against Republic Acts 7610 and 7658, both laws covering protection of children.

Mr. Amoricillo earlier claimed that IFI was accorded custody of the five minors who were among the 13 arrested earlier this month by police from Libona, Bukidnon on suspicion that they were members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Upon confirming that the five are indeed minors after they were arrested, the police turned them over to the Libona municipal social welfare and development office.

Mr. Amoricillo, in a press conference last Tuesday, said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office gave custody of the children to one Melvy Anlagan, their relative, who, in turn, requested IFI to take custody of the minors.

In a separate e-mail, DSWD Region 10 Spokesperson Oliver Inodeo clarified that the minors were never under the custody of their agency.

“Under the Local Government Code, each municipality has its own social welfare and development office already. It is in this office that is referred to in this case,” Mr. Inodeo said.

Mr. Balmaceda, meanwhile, maintained that the IFI ministers forcibly took the minors from the municipal social welfare and development office.

Mr. Amoricillo has confirmed that the children are with them in an undisclosed location.

He also said a joint team from the Libona local government and police went to the church’s headquarters last Sunday in Cagayan de Oro City to search for the children.

“It is for this reason that the Iglesia Filipina Independiente condemns in the strongest terms the assault being mounted against her and of her leaders by supposed rights promoter and authorities of the land... even as she was only doing her Christian mandate of helping the weak and the needy,” Mr. Amoricillo said.

IFI has also sought the intervention of Libona Mayor Leonardo Genesis T. Calingasan who has vowed to look into the case. -- Mark D. Francisco