Joseph Peter Calleja, Manila
Updated: November 27, 2020 05:37 AM GMT
Bishop Victor Bendico of Baguio has been accused of being a communist sympathizer in several Facebook posts. (Photo supplied)
A diocese in the northern Philippines has issued a statement condemning several social media posts accusing its bishop of supporting communist rebels.
Baguio Diocese said it has received reports that certain accounts on Facebook had accused Bishop Victor Bendico of being a member of “left-leaning” groups including the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared the organization a terrorist group in 2017 after it intensified attacks against government forces despite ongoing peace talks.
“In the recent week, we were notified by concerned friends and faithful regarding posts on Facebook associating our dear bishop to an organization which he does not personally know and deal with. He was addressed in the posts as a supporter of this organization, for which reason he was red-tagged,” the diocese’s vicar general and spokesman Father Rosito Pedro, Jr. said in a statement.
He said Bishop Bendico was not linked to any left-wing group that supported violence.
“Baguio Diocese disclaims any links to any right-wing or left-wing groups. The Diocese of Baguio promotes and advocates justice and peace, integrated human development and charity,” the statement said.
While the bishop advocated programs for the poor, it did not mean he was a member of a communist group, Father Pedro said.
This is not the first time a church figure has been red-tagged. In June 2020, Missionary Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan was labeled a staunch communist supporter by a high-ranking government official.
Lorraine Badoy, an official in Duterte’s communications office, sparked an outcry after saying the Catholic nun deserved a “place of honor” in the terrorist group.
“A Catholic nun given a place of honor in a communist terrorist organization. Imagine that.” Badoy said on social media.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque defended Badoy, saying it was freedom of expression.
Last year the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) denounced red-tagging as it could endanger missionaries in the Philippines.
Several activists have been killed by gunmen after being branded communist sympathizers.
“Red-tagging, accusing individuals and organizations of being communist terrorists, is inimical to democracy and respect for human rights,” the AMRSP said in a statement.
Baguio Diocese called for an end to such accusations being aimed at Bishop Bendico.
“Neither the bishop nor the Social Action Commission of the Diocese of Baguio has direct links to any so-called right-wing or left-wing groups and hereby ask those posting on Facebook to stop red-tagging our bishop,” it said.