June 29, 2021

UCCP Pastor Arrested In Bohol Police Raid; 4 Firearms Allegedly Recovered From His Home

A pastor/minister of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) was arrested by the police on June 25 (Friday) during a dawn raid at his residence in Purok 5, Barangay San Jose, Mabini, Bohol. The suspect was identified as Nathaniel Vallente Bernales. He is also known as Pastor Dodo.

The Bohol police raided Bernales's home at 3:00 am by virtue of a search warrant. According to the police, they recovered 4 .45 caliber pistols, 4 firearm magazines, live/empty bullets, and a bag which they claim to contain "subversive documents".

Aside from being a minister for the UCCP, Bernales is also a program coordinator for the Farmers Development Center (FARDEC) in Bohol. 

What is FARDEC?

From their Facebook page: "Central Visayas Farmers Development Center, Inc is a non-stock non-profit organization established in 1989 by a group of religious and lay persons to serve as a regional support mechanism for farmers in CV—Bohol, Cebu, and Negros Oriental."

From their website: "Borne out of the belief that the peasants are an indispensable force in attaining sustainable development, individuals from the church, academe and peasants grouped together to build an institution for the farmers. Thus in 1989, Central Visayas Farmers Development Center, Inc. was born. Since its inception until today, FARDEC continues to serve as a support institution for the farmers in Central Visayas. Given the situation of the farmers past and present, its development framework rests in the idea of working hand-in-hand with the farmers in attaining genuine agrarian reform and sustainable development. Throughout the years, FARDEC’s programs and services underwent changes to cater to the changing needs of the farmers but its development framework remains the same as the farmers’ situation continues to exist."

FARDEC has been red-tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense in the past.

Also arrested in June 25 was Carmilo Tabada who is also a program coordinator for FARDEC in Bohol. 

On the day of the arrests, Marianne Corazon Tagalo, Officer-in-Charge of FARDEC released the following statement:

"FARDEC's program coordinator for Bohol Carmilo Tabada was arrested at around 1am today in his Trinidad, Bohol home by a composite team of the CIDG, PNP, and AFP over planted firearms and grenade explosive, his family confirmed. He is currently detained at the Trinidad Police Station. 

At 3am, Pastor Nathaniel Vallente of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines was also arrested in Mabini, Bohol over the same planted evidence. Claiming that they have a warrant, the raiding teams were not wearing any body camera and the barangay officials did not even sign the manifestation of arms and ammunition retrieval. 

Pastor Vallente is an active counselor of the Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa San Jose (NAMASAJO), one of our peasant partners in Bohol. FARDEC denounces to the highest degree this series of attacks that harks back to Negros island's Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) that massacred innocent farmers in 2018 and 2019. 

Tabada is a barangay councilor and leader of esteemed commitment that greatly helped implementation of our projects for peasant communities in Bohol. Eloy, as Tabada is fondly called, joined FARDEC in 1998 and became Bohol coordinator in 2002. Among the results of Tabada’s efforts and grassroots networks was the rice mill in Trinidad which significantly aided local farmer unions, among them NAMASAJO, in setting rice prices and breaking buyer monopolies before its forced closure in December 2020. 

Since March 2021, when a motorcycle-riding mob staged a red-tagging protest in front of his home in time for the New People's Army's founding anniversary, repeated red-tagging and surveillance forced him to scale down presence and prioritize his family's safety. 

This newest incident of attack on FARDEC staff impedes our operations toward truly eradicating poverty and hunger among farmers in Central Visayas. This comes a little over a year since our Sustainable Agriculture Program coordinator Elena Tijamo was abducted from her Bantayan island, Cebu home. 

Her whereabouts and fate remain unknown. We call for the immediate release of both Tabada, Pastor Vallente, and other peasant leaders in Bohol who have been victimized by intense counter-insurgency pretense in recent weeks. This is yet another reflection of the government's failure to curb the worsening human rights situation in the country."