The truth about ‘Father Valdez’ you ought to know — and share.
By Koko Alviar
News broke out on August 8 that a priest using and peddling drugs was arrested in a buy-bust operation in Paniqui, Tarlac.
The article — and other stories that followed — erroneously associated the priest with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
The alleged erring minister, identified as 35-year-old Randy Valdez, was caught in an operation in Poblacion Norte.
According to the official report of PSupt Joel Mendoza, he was caught with Mike Raven Quinto, 20, of Barangay Poblacion Sur, and Camille Franilla, 23, of Barangay Poblacion Norte. Both were known drug personalities.
Mendoza said: “The target of our entrapment were Camille (Franilla) and Quinto who are both on our Municipal Watchlist of Drug Personalities. It was Camille who received the P500 marked money from my policeman poseur buyer but it was this person (Valdez) who handed the two plastic sachets of shabu. That’s why we arrested them.”
‘PRIEST, USER, PUSHER‘
Valdez, reports noted, was also a native of Paniqui. They further emphasized that he was an IFI priest assigned to the faith community in Cuyapo town, Nueva Ecija.
“When we accosted Valdez along with the two other suspects, I thought he (Valdez) was joking, or was high on drugs, when he introduced himself as a priest,” Mendoza said. “But it turned out to be true, he is a priest of the Aglipayan Church.”
Valdez admitted to authorities that he had been using illegal drugs even before he started as a priest. Since his arrest, Valdez tested positive for drug use.
Bishop Dindo Ranojo of the Diocese of Tarlac vehemently disowned Valdez, noting that Valdez “is not and has never been a member of IFI.”
“Before I became a bishop, I worked in our national office, and I did not encounter his name,” he added. The bishop had been a program officer for years.
Pressed to clarify his true affiliation on August 9, Valdez finally admitted he was not from the IFI, and was, in fact, working with the Philippine Independent Catholic Church, a faction of the IFI.
The corrections come after the news of the arrest became viral, hurting the image of the nationalist Church.
‘I RESIGNED’ — VALDEZ
Valdez reportedly tried to dodge questions on his credentials, quoted as saying: “Huwag na po sanang palakihin pa ang issue, kasi matagal na po akong nag-resign sa IFI.”
But Bishop Ranojo retorted that he did not resign.
“Hindi namin siya naging member,” he clarified. “I do not even know if he is really a priest. He did not study at our schools.”
“Siya ay son-in-law ni Padre Norman Pascual na naging pari sa Cuyapo,” clarified Nueva Ecija Bishop Warlito Baldomero in a recent social-media post. “Nang nasa bingit na ng kamatayan si Padre Pascual, inordinahan niya ang kaniyang anak na babae bilang pari at itinalaga sa Cuyapo.”
He further explained: “Dahil hindi handa na gumampan sa tungkulin dahil sa kakulangan sa edukasyong theological, inordinahan ng kaniyang anak ang kaniyang asawa na si Randy Valdez. Kaya nga kinikilala ni Randy ang kaniyang asawa na obispo niya. Maliwanag na hindi lehitimo ang kaniyang ordinasyon at kailanman ay hindi kabilang sa kaparian ng IFI.”
The bishop reached out to Valdez before: “Minsan kinumbensi ko, kasama ng mga kaparian na pumasok siya sa seminariyo. Inayawan niya ang aming alok.”
The schools that produce the ordained of the IFI are the Aglipay Central Theological Seminary in Pangasinan, Saint Andrew’s Theological Seminary in Quezon City and Saint Paul’s Theological Seminary in Guimaras.
In initial interviews, Valdez erroneously stated that seminary programs took 5-8 years. Seminarians can only stay as long as eight years only if they extend due to failed grades or suspension.
CONFUSION WITH TERMS
Paniqui police apparently validated with their Cuyapo counterparts of Valdez’s claim that he was with IFI.
Mendoza explained: “[PSInsp Abraham Atencio] confirmed that he (Valdez) regularly officiates masses in their church and also said that he (Valdez) is peddling illegal drugs and uses the back of their church in his dealing of shabu.”
It was not established which “Aglipayan Church” (many claim the name) he was working for then.
He identified PICC later on, a name the group should not be using. IFI has the exclusive right to the name, among other names, per National Statistics Office Memorandum 12-73. (The memo has revoked their authority to solemnize marriage and cancelled their registration as PICC Inc.)
The dioceses in Tarlac and Nueva Ecija are some IFI jurisdictions that have a history of entanglement with factions of the primordial Aglipayan Church, proclaimed in 1902 by Union Obrera Democratica. Only the IFI has a legitimate continuity from — and claim to — that Church.
THE STORY OF CUYAPO
The Cuyapo community was a victim in the splintering of the Church, Bishop Baldomero noted in a separate Facebook post.
The Cuyapo church had been illegally occupied by the factional group since 1983, he said. “…Sapilitang inokupa ng faction [ang simbahan] sa araw na si Rev. Dr. Terry Revollido ay oordinahan sa pagkapari. Marahas na pamamaraan ang ginamit ng faction kaya walang nagagawa sina Dr. Terry at iba pa kundi ang tumakbo sa Nampicuan.”
He was referring to Very Rev. Eleuterio Revollido, now the dean of ACTS.
The Diocese of Nueva Ecija has sought the expulsion of Valdez for years now. In 2013, the IFI side met him at the office of the Cuyapo Mayor to articulate the IFI’s stand on the Cuyapo property, but he insisted the property did not belong to IFI. Bishop Baldomero claimed that he even attempted to sell parts of the land to unsuspecting members of the Church, a move that IFI’s court intervention prevented.
The court finally decided that the IFI owned the Cuyapo church on June 28, 2017. Valdez did not heed a “demand to vacate.”
His arrest only set in motion the diocese’s successful reclaiming of the faith community in Cuyapo, said the bishop. He sees the incident as “the will of God.”
In connection with the development, the Nueva Ecija diocese is inviting faithful to join the Thanksgiving Mass on August 16, 7 am.
“Please continue to pray for us, or if you have time, come and join us,” he said.
IFI AND ILLEGAL DRUG
In the middle of the drug scandal, the IFI would like to reiterate its long-held stance on problematic drug use, which it has touched on in light of the intertwining issues of drug abuse and extrajudicial killings.
For the Church: Users must not be demonized immediately and must be understood with empathy and compassion; the government must still address the chronic factors that pushed many to the illegal-drug economy.
“IFI is a worldwide church with more than 6 million members and is recognized by the World Council of Churches,” said Bishop Ranojo. “We have no priest involved in drugs.”
The Church prays for Valdez and all problematic drug users a shot at rehabilitation, redemption and reintegration.