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USPG stands with Philippines’ church following ‘illegal arrest’ of bishop (26.5.17)

USPG is standing in solidarity alongside the Philippine Independent Church following the arrest of a bishop on the spurious charge of ‘illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions’.

The Rt Revd Carlo Morales, Bishop of Ozamis – together with his wife, aide and driver – were arrested by police earlier this month.

According to human rights lawyers the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), the arrest took place on 11 May.

Bishop Carlo and his companions were riding in a vehicle with Romel Salinas, a consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDFP), a group which promotes ‘national freedom and the democratic rights of the people’.

The police had a warrant for the arrest of Mr Salinas, but no warrant for Bishop Carlo and his companions. Therefore the arrest of Bishop Carlo was illegal, say UPLM.

The Rt Revd Rhee Timbang, Bishop of Surigao, told USPG: ‘We are deeply saddened and furious about the way Ozamis City [police] treated the arrest and detention of Bishop Carlo Morales and his company.

‘They were treated as common criminals; in fact they are in detention cells together with common criminals.

‘The bishop’s lawyer was barred from being present during the inventory of materials allegedly confiscated from them, and likewise from talking to him initially.

‘Bishop Carlo and company are scheduled to face inquest… for the ridiculous allegation of illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions.’

Local church-goers are bringing food and clean clothes to the bishop and his party, and holding vigil at the police station in the hope of ensuring their safety.

Bishop Rhee added: ‘We hope to mobilise human rights lawyers to assist their legal needs. We also 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 the Philippines Independent Church 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 its leaders.’

There is a long-standing protest movement in the Philippines that is seeking better conditions and rights for poor and marginalised communities. However, protests have been met with the ‘extrajudicial killings’ of hundreds of government opponents, including human rights lawyers and journalists. The church is a supporter of peaceful negotiations and human rights.

USPG Programmes Co-ordinator Rebecca Boardman said: ‘We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. They are in our prayers.’


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