AFP denies red-tagging church council, confusing members ready to condemn

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 08 2019 07:32 PM

MANILA - A bit of confusion and contradiction hit the headquarters of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) in Quezon City Friday, after the group prepared to denounce their alleged inclusion in the military's list of communist front organizations, only to witness their chairman denying it.

In his opening statement, retired Justice Raoul Victorino, the NCCP chair, revealed that just a few hours ahead of the press conference, he met with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence Maj. Gen. Reuben Basiao, who Victorino said categorically denied that the NCCP was a communist front.

Victorino said Basiao told him that some of NCCP’s projects may have “wittingly or unwittingly” been served to benefit the communist movement, but that the military did not consider the NCCP itself as a communist front organization.

This statement visibly confused members of the NCCP at the venue, the panelists, and other support organizations who came prepared with their statements of condemnation.

At the photo opportunity where each member held up placards of protest, Victorino refused to raise a placard that said “Stop the Attacks,” saying “there is no attack.” He folded his placard in half, to only show the lines “Pray and Act for Peace and Justice.”

When asked to clarify whether the NCCP itself was mistaken in thinking they were being accused or whether the military was withdrawing its accusation, some support groups told Victorino Basiao had lied to him. 

Another NCCP member said this was a grave mistake and that in fact, armed men in civilian clothes had already entered the NCCP office on Thursday, searching for certain individuals.

In a separate interview, Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said the NCCP was indeed on their list of front organizations, but that not the entire NCCP was complicit. He said there were certain subgroups and individual members who have infiltrated the NCCP with the intent to serve the communist party. 

Just like the other organizations, Parlade said, the communist movement operates with duplicity within these open civic organizations.

Parlade said they are willing to sit down with the NCCP to show evidence they have gathered and again challenge any critic to a debate.