Saturday, January 17, 2015

Harsh security sees nuns detained over papal visit in Tacloban

Posted to Rappler (Jan 16): Harsh security sees nuns detained over papal visit in Tacloban (by Philip Bader UCAN)

Sisters questioned, accused of militancy before being released

TACLOBAN, Philippines – Officers from the Philippine National Police on Thursday, January 15, detained a delegation of nuns from Mindanao en route to San Jose district in Tacloban, accusing them of being covert members of a militant organization.

Sister Noemi Delaga speaks at a press conference on Friday in Tacloban, January 16, 2015. Photo by Vincent Go
Sister Noemi Delaga speaks at a press conference on Friday in Tacloban, January 16, 2015. Photo by Vincent Go
The nuns from the Sisters Association of Mindanao (SAMIN) were visiting Tanauan, just outside Palo in Leyte province, to deliver relief aid before attending a vigil and welcoming ceremony for Pope Francis in San Jose, one of the districts hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.

“We were stopped and held up for an hour while police peppered us with questions and accusations,” Sr Noemi Degala, executive secretary of SAMIN, said in a press statement.

Among the accusations, the statement added, was that the sisters were members of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Sr Evangelina Labanda, one of the nuns detained and questioned, said the Archdiocese of Palo was well briefed on the group’s humanitarian activities in Leyte province, and specifically in Tacloban.

“Even before our coming, the archdiocese had already acknowledged the legitimacy of our organization,” she said at a press conference at the Kawaksi Retreat Center in San Jose district on Friday, January 16.

She added that the group had official identification papers and car passes required for travel in Tacloban during the papal visit.

Attempts to reach police officials in Tanauan for comment on Friday were unsuccessful.

Hermenio Coloma Jr, secretary at the Presidential Communications Operations Office, told that he “will refer the report to the Philippines National Police for comment”.

“SAMIN is very much active... and recognized by the priests, by the authorities of the Church,” Sr Degala said.

“We have been very active with Church issues. We have been very active with social issues, and where the Church should stand on them,” she added.

Pope Francis is expected to arrive in Tacloban on Saturday morning, January 17, where he will celebrate Mass at the airport before traveling to nearby Palo.

There, he will have lunch with 30 representatives of Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors before blessing the Pope Francis Center for the Poor and meeting a group of priests, nuns, seminarians and families of Yolanda survivors at Palo cathedral.

Security ahead of the visit has been tight. About 35,000 PNP officers and 12,500 military personnel have been added to the existing police force in Tacloban to provide security for the pope’s visit.

Residents living in multi-story structures along the pope’s processional route between the airport and Palo have been advised not to enter the upper floors during the procession.

Cesar Ronda lives in a two-story house on San Jose Airport Road, along which the papal procession will pass, and says that police have warned him about using his balcony.

To accommodate family members who have flown in from the United States to see the pope, he has constructed a three-foot stage in his front yard.

“[Security] is very strict. We are constructing the platform because we cannot use our terrace, the balcony of our own house,” he said on Thursday.

Sr Degala described the security restrictions in Tacloban as “overburdening” but said the treatment of the SAMIN sisters went well beyond what was acceptable.

“The militarized security conditions have been widely reported in the media, but this brazen harassment of religious sisters takes the cake,” Sr Degala said.

“We are not armed communist revolutionaries, and we are most certainly not terrorists.”

[Philip Bader is the editor-in-chief of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN). UCAN, the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia, is Rappler's partner in covering the Pope's Philippine trip in January.]

1 comment:

  1. Philippine security forces oftentimes have difficulty in seeing any shades of grey when it comes to above ground, legal organizations that work closely with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military wing the New People's Army (NPA). The tendency is to paint everyone with a broad brush and simply label them all communists/members of the NPA.

    Are the nuns linked to the Sisters Association of Mindanao (SAMIN) active members of the NPA...of course not. Do the good sisters engage in humanitarian activities for the less fortunate, yes they do. Do they embrace Marxist-Leninist tenets and work closely with insurgents and known CPP front organizations at the grassroots certainly appears to be the case.

    The key point is, the good sisters appear to have exercised a "preferential option for the poor" a theological concept that is tied to revolutionary "liberation theology."

    Here are some excerpts from Wikipeida on the concepts of "option for the poor" and "Liberation Theology":

    ...As a developed theological principle, the option for the poor was first articulated by Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, O.P. in his landmark work, A Theology of Liberation (1971). Gutierrez asserts that the principle is rooted in both the Old and New Testaments and claims that a preferential concern for the physical and spiritual welfare of the poor is an essential element of the Gospel.

    In the mid-1980s, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, led the effort by the Holy See to stop liberation theology, which he viewed as a form of Marxism. In August 1984, shortly before the release of the official view of the Holy See, he strongly criticized several arguments of liberation theology in a private document to theologians leaked to the press. Ratzinger believed that liberation theologians contend that Christians must engage in a class struggle (in the Marxist sense) in the present to break down the gulf between rich and poor. As summarized by Cardinal Ratzinger, "The biblical concept of the poor provides a starting point for fusing the Bible's view of history with Marxist dialectic; it is interpreted by the idea of the proletariat in the Marxist sense and thus justifies Marxism as the legitimate hermeneutics for understanding the Bible."

    The above helps explain why a small number of Catholic priests and nuns are associated with, or active in, known CPP front groups. More often than not they participate in social welfare, humanitarian, or human rights organizations.


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