The nuns said the raiding team, composed of elements of the police intelligence and regional mobile group led by Supt. Wilfredo Reyes, police regional intelligence head, forcibly opened the convent’s wooden gate and immediately went inside to look for Jorge Madlos, the NDF spokesperson, who he claimed was hiding inside the convent.
The operatives, armed with an arrest warrant for Madlos, searched the convent’s bedrooms for almost 30 minutes but did not find Madlos.
The convent is located at the back of the City Medical Hospital.
In an interview, Sister Geraldine Ortuoste told MindaNews that the policemen arrived at the convent around 8:45 p.m. and shouted at the nuns to open the gate. “I was thinking that they were church people who wanted to buy host for All Soul’s Day,” she said.
An Indonesian nun from the congregation reportedly went outside to asked for their identity before allowing them in. But the policemen answered in the Cebuano dialect which the Indonesian nun did not understand, so she went inside and sought the help of another sister.
Ortuoste, head of the convent, said that seven policemen, three of them carrying M-16 rifles, forcibly opened the gate and rushed inside the convent while several other policemen remained outside. “We were frightened upon seeing the armed men,” she said.
Ortuoste said the police informed them that they were looking for Madlos and that they have an arrest warrant for him. When asked why they were looking for him at the convent, she said the police did not answer but ordered the sisters to open the bedrooms.
She immediately called up Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos to report the incident. At 9:30 p.m., Ortuoste said the team leader introduced himself as Supt. Reyes and showed them the warrant against Madlos. The raiding team then went out of the convent.
Ortuoste said she does not know who Madlos is. She noted they are contemplative sisters and are not involved in any community activities.
The bishop was quoted as saying that the raid could have been a “mistaken identity” since the policemen were apparently looking for the convent of the Missionaries of Sister Mary (MSM).
Pueblo’s statement was also supported by Ortuoste when she said that Reyes asked an apology today on last night’s raid. Reyes, Ortuoste said, admitted that they were looking for the MSM convent.
Ortuoste said the bishop would call for an investigation on the raid.
In a press statement, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Quezon City “condemn(ed) in strongest terms (the) pattern of intimidation and harassment perpetrated by instruments of the government which is clearly deliberate and systematic.”
The statement said that the heavily armed men’s forcible entry “into the peaceful convent and engaged in a search spree without a warrant is indeed a clear violation of human rights.”
Reports said the police raided the MSM convent later on the same night but MindaNews failed to get more details as of press time. The MSM convent is situated inside the compound of the bishop’s house in Ampayon, this city.