Police arrested an alleged top ranking communist leader in western Mindanao along with a bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), his wife and their driver in Ozamiz City Friday night.
The IFI is also known as the Philippine Independent Church or the Aglipayan Church.
PNP Northern Mindanao spokesperson Superintendent Lemuel Gonda said a joint police and army team arrested the four at a checkpoint in Barangay Gango.
He identified them as Rommel Salinas, the alleged secretary general of the Communist Party of the Philippines in Western Mindanao; Bishop Carlo Morales; his wife Maria Teofila Losaria Morales; and their driver Isadome Dalid, who was driving their maroon-colored Starex van.
Bishop Morales heads the IFI diocese in Ozamiz City.
Gonda said they found and confiscated from the four suspects a hand grenade, six Nokia mobile phones, battery packs, a map of Misamis Occidental, and P80,700 in cash.
He said the four suspects were brought and detained at the Ozamiz City police office.
Bishop Morales on handcuffs. Photo from IFI-Ozamiz’s Facebook page
The arrest of Bishop Morales ignited a furor among the IFI clergy who immediately summoned members to go to the Ozamiz City police station.
“Those of you who can travel, go now to the Ozamiz police station,” said Bishop Antonio Ablon of the IFI’s Pagadian City diocese.
The IFI posted a photo of a handcuffed Bishop Morales in its Facebook page and said the four were not allowed to make any phone calls for help.
Ablon said Bishop Morales identified himself to the police but despite that, the police still accorded him with poor treatment.
He said Bishop Morales and his three other companions were detained inside a temporary jailhouse along with common criminals.
The IFI issued a strong statement condemning the arrest of Bishop Morales and demanded for his immediate release.
“We find no reason that the good IFI Bishop of Ozamiz will be illegally arrested, handcuffed and illegally detained in jail. He had properly introduced himself as a bishop but was still accorded with maltreatments,” the IFI statement said.