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USPG stands by Filipino bishop who has been jailed on false charges (15.12.17)

USPG is standing in solidarity with Bishop Carlo Morales, of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC), who has been imprisoned on the false charge of ‘illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions’.

The Rt Revd Carlo Morales, Bishop of Ozamis and a peace advocate, was jailed in May after he refused to leave the side of a human rights activist who had been wrongfully arrested by the police.

Both arrests can be seen as part of a violent campaign by the Philippines’ authorities to destabilise the efforts of activists to win better conditions for poor and marginalised communities.

Indeed, in recent years hundreds of protesters have been the victims of so-called ‘extrajudicial killings’, including lawyers, journalists and members of the PIC, which is a keen advocate for peaceful negotiations and human rights.

On 11 May, Bishop Carlo, his wife and a driver were travelling to Ozamiz City when they were flagged down by a man who requested a ride. The man was Rommel Salinas, who was a stranger to Bishop Carlo but, like him, also a peace activist.

In the Philippines, the police are not supposed to search or arrest peace activists in connection with their peace work. However, on approaching Ozamiz City, the bishop’s car was stopped at a military checkpoint and, despite his immunity status, Rommel Salinas was arrested.

Bishop Carlo, his wife and driver were told they were free to go, but the bishop chose to stay with the peace campaigner – so the police arrested them all, putting them in handcuffs and telling them they were accomplices in harbouring a criminal.

Their belongings were searched without any legal witnesses – and the police falsely claimed they had found a bomb in one of their bags. The bishop and his companions were put in a cell and were not allowed to talk in private to their lawyer.

Eventually, the bishop’s wife and the driver were released but Bishop Carlo remains in prison on the false charge of illegal possession of explosives.

Bishop Carlo is a victim of fabricated charges. His legal counsel continues to work for his release.

‘Furious and saddened’

The Rt Revd Rhee Timbang, Supreme Bishop of PIC, told USPG he was ‘furious and deeply saddened’ about the arrest of Bishop Carlo.

He said: ‘We seek moral support from our partner churches and ecumenical network on this incident which is clearly a case of harassment against church people.

‘We ask the bishops, clergy and faithful of PIC in other parts of the country and abroad to keep praying for Bishop Carlo and company, and to 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 their leaders.’

USPG Programmes Co-ordinator Rebecca Boardman said: ‘Bishop Carlo is an inspiration to many in the continuing fight for truth, justice and peace amid state repression and persecution.

‘Part of the Philippine Independent Church’s prophetic ministry is to support peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP. So it is both saddening and alarming to have a bishop illegally arrested, maliciously detained, and accused of fabricated charges.

‘We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. They are in our prayers.’

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