05/16/2020 Philippines (International Christian Concern) – A Catholic priest has been targeted by the Philippine military for helping Lumads, the indigenous people who often fall victim to land grabbing and extra judicial killings by the government.
According to UCA News, Father Raymond Montero Ambray of Tandag Diocese said he came across Facebook posts on May 10 with his picture labeling him as a “priest-bringer of evil.”
The Lumads are the largest indigenous group in the Philippines. They live in Mindanao in the south and are often accused by the military of harboring and supporting communist insurgents. This smear campaign against Father Ambray attempts to falsely brands him as an active supporter of communist rebels.
Father Ambray teaching the Lumads about their rights set out in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, which aims to protect their claim to ancestral domains or ethnic lands. The law says that no indigenous people can be relocated without their consent.
In a social media post, Father Ambray said, “The education I equip them with is so they can assert their rights… The help that I am offering them is small when compared to the enormous scale of their fight. Yet I am being accused of being an influencer or manipulator of them.”
His efforts, according to him, were not political but theological in nature. “As a priest, I consider it my duty to bring about the integral salvation, bought by Christ on the Cross, among Lumads. It means leading them to their full potential as people or persons. It means dialoguing with them or learning from them,” he said.
He believes that the Philippine Military is behind the smear campaign on social media. “They are trying to besmirch my work as ideological and reduce my apostolate with the Lumads as a front of CPP-NPA [communist rebels],” he added.