“We condemn this act of harassment to God’s workers who earnestly work for peace and justice in our land.”
By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – Various groups today assailed the arrest and detention of a bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, his wife and two other companions in Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental province.
Bishop Carlo Morales of the Diocese of Ozamis City was arrested last night, May 11, at a police checkpoint in Gango village, Ozamiz City. With him were his wife Maria Teofilina, his driver Isadome Dalid and Rommel Salinas (earlier identified as Racal). The police claimed Salinas is a ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao.
Morales is a member of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). His wife, Ma. Teofilina or “Darling,” is a public school teacher at Lakandula High School in Manila City, a member of NCCP and its Teatro Ekyumenikal, a cultural-liturgical ministry.
Groups such as the IFI, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and NCCP assailed what they called illegal arrest and detention of the four.
“We condemn this act of harassment to God’s workers who earnestly work for peace and justice in our land,” said the NCCP in a statement.
“Whether it is true or not that an NPA officer was arrested with him, arresting authorities should have treated everyone with respect. Bishop Carlo is not a criminal neither his wife nor the two others who were with him,” Obispo Maximo Ephraim Fajutagana said in a statement.
Morales has just arrived from Manila where he attended the recently-concluded IFI General Assembly which gathered to vote for a new Obispo Maximo.
In a Facebook post, Right Reverend Rhee Timbang of the Diocese of Surigao, the newly-elected IFI Obispo Maximo, asked the clergy and the IFI community to pray and “seek ways to help in their immediate release and most of all to be vigilant against the fascistic efforts of the security forces of this state to silence and cow progressive churches and its leaders.”
Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary-general condemned the warrantless arrest and detention as a “blatant violation of human rights committed again by state agents.”
“This is a clear human rights violation and that all state authorities involved in this violation must be held liable,” he said.
Dr. Rommel Linatoc, the NCCP Program secretary, denounced how Morales and his companions were handcuffed and detained, and may possibly be charged with trumped-up cases.
“The fabricated charges are intended to keep them under the government’s control and scrutiny. These 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 Linatoc.
“The good Bishop serves as a shepherd and a prophet, not only within the confines of his church and to IFI constituents, but also to the local ecumenical movement in their region,” he added.
The groups called for the release of the detainees.
(Update: A Karapatan Alert posted by Karapatan secretary general Tinay Palabay said on May 12, Bishop Morales and Salinas were inquested on charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. The bishop’s wife Darling and driver Dalid were released.)