Fear for safety of Aglipayan Priest working for human rights and is placed in the army’s Order of Battle list

Account of Incident:

On March 12, 2009, Fr. Rex Reyes, Jr., General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) received a text message from another priest inquiring if there is any truth to the news that Rev. Dionito Cabillas, IFI had been “arrested in Manila for a Rebellion case.”

The priest, from the same church as Fr. Cabillas and based in Negros, said that his Bishop received the information from retired IFI priest and a former chaplain in the Armed Forces in the Philippines (AFP).

The former chaplain claimed the news was aired on March 9, 2009.  He informed the bishop and the priest that Fr. Cabillas is “blacklisted” by the military and that the latter is in the “top ten” individuals listed in the military’s “order of battle.”

An order of battle is an organizational tool used by the military intelligence to list and take action against its enemies.

Cabillas, who is fondly called Fr. Diony by his parishioners, colleagues and the human rights victims he has assisted, was surprised because he has no knowledge of any rebellion case or any felony lodged against him.

Fr. Diony’s colleagues in the church and human rights organizations are surprised with the news and are concerned for his safety.

In recent years, the Philippines has seen a rise in extrajudicial killings of civilians, mostly human rights defenders and activists.  These victims have been included in the AFP’s order of battle and subjected to a vilification campaign before they were executed.   This is part of the Philippine government’s enhanced national internal security plan called Oplan Bantay Laya.

Oplan Bantay Laya is likewise responsible for the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) that fabricates criminal charges filed against leaders of legal, democratic organizations.

This is not the first time that Fr. Diony faced persecution for his strong human rights advocacy.  In 1993, during his ministry among the poor in Magsaysay, Lanao del Norte, the military had abducted him and detained him for 6 days.

On February 9, 1993 soldiers brought him to the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Tabak Division, Philippine Army in Pulakan, Zamboanga del Sur.  At gunpoint, he was forced to admit that he was an official of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

He was released without charges on February 14, 1993.  Nineteen days later, on March 5, a certification signed by Capt. Melquiades L. Feliciano of the Philippine Army (then Commanding Officer of the Military Intelligence Company (MICO) of the Tabak Division) tagged him as the “former Secretary of the White Area Committee.”  Capt. Feliciano cited him as having “surrendered” and that he was “cleared by this unit.”

By March 29 of the same year, the military ordered Fr. Diony to lead the prayers in a village meeting they convened.  To his surprise and chagrin, he was presented as a “rebel returnee.”

Despite this experience, he has continued to work for human rights, assisting victims of human rights violations, visiting prisoners, attending court hearings and joining search and quick reaction teams that respond to reports of human rights abuses. ###