From the Philippine News Agency (May 16): Church, rights groups seek release of IFI bishop, NDFP consultant
Church leaders and human rights groups in Northern Mindanao on Tuesday joined the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) clergy in condemning the arrest and detention of IFI Bishop Carlos Morales, along with a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), by a joint police and military team in Ozamiz City last week.
In a statement, the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) called the apprehension of Morales as “appalling” and “a violation of human rights.”
The CCA is an ecumenical organization representing 15 national councils and over 100 churches in Southeast Asia and elsewhere in the region.
Morales was detained after Rommel Salinas, who was identified as an NDFP consultant and a top commander of the New People’s Army (NPA), was arrested by authorities in Barangay Gango, Ozamiz last Friday, May 12.
Under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig), Salinas, as a member of the NDF peace negotiating panel, was entitled to protection, the report said.
During initial investigation, Morales admitted that he was traveling with his wife Maria Teofilina, driver Isadome Dalid and Salinas, who just hitched a ride.
The bishop said the police officers and military personnel manning the checkpoint flagged down their vehicle and arrested Salinas by virtue of a warrant of arrest.
The police freed Morales’ wife and Dalid. The bishop and Salinas were put behind bars and are now facing charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, CCA general secretary, said “it is unfortunate that [Morales] has been accorded with such maltreatment. Despite introducing himself as a bishop, he was illegally arrested, handcuffed and detained in a crowded holding cell in the city’s police station.”
IFI Bishop Antonio Ablon said the accusation against Morales "was baseless," pointing out that as a religious leader, the bishop has an obligation to provide protection or sanctuary to any person who is in distress or politically persecuted.
In a separate statement, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) has called for the immediate and unconditional release of Morales.
The group also condemned the treatment of the military and the Ozamiz police who detained them (Morales and Salinas) along with common offenders.
The NCCP said that the “fabricated charges are intended to keep them under the government’s control and scrutiny.”
“These (charges) also manifest the continuous fascist strategy of the state forces against church leaders who are actively advocating for the advancement and protection of the rights of the oppressed and marginalized sectors in the country,” said Dr. Rommel Linatoc, secretary of the NCCP’s program unit on Christian Unity and Ecumenical Relations.
“In these critical times where the good is often seen as bad and evil is seen as good, someone who advocates for peace based on justice through prophetic witness will surely be harassed, intimidated and arrested,” said Bishop Elorde Sambat, of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) North Luzon Jurisdictional Area.
The human rights group Karapatan in Northern Mindanao said that Salinas is the fourth NDFP consultant arrested after the Duterte administration declared an all-out war on February 3, despite the statements of the government on the reaffirmation of its adherence to the Jasig and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.